Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill, 1988: Second Stage.

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

The purpose of the Bill is to create a comprehensive legal and structured system as regards safety and health at work. The Bill has one clear objective which is to help reduce accidents and ill-health at work which give rise to human loss and suffering and which create costs for both individual workers and for the economy.

This Bill, in broad terms, sets down a preventive approach as regards avoiding accidents and ill-health in the workplace. Employers will have to identify the hazards in the workplace and set them out, along with the protective measures, in a written safety statement. The Bill places general duties and responsibilities on all employers, workers and the self-employed. These general duties can be fleshed out as necessary in regulations or codes of practice. The Bill covers all workers and trainees. It provides a basis for employers to inform, train and consult their employees on safety and health. It also provides for the establishment of a tripartite National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health. Employers and workers representatives on this Authority will share a major responsibility for developing and implementing safety and health policies. Decision on general policy will remain in my hands as Minister for Labour.

The Bill fulfils an important commitment by the Government in the Programme for National Recovery. It is based closely on the main recommendations of the Barrington Commission of Inquiry on Safety, Health and Welfare at Work, on which both sides of industry as well as Government were represented. The Bill has been drafted following extensive consultation with the two sides of industry on the Interim Board for Occupational Safety and Health. I can, with confidence, say that there is overall acceptance of the legislation amongst those to whom it will apply. I wish to place on the record the Government's appreciation of the work carried out by the commission and also by the interim baord.

The Barrington Commission's examination of occupational safety and health was the first such comprehensive study conducted in Ireland. Its investigations were timely, coinciding with a period of rapid and sustained technological change at the place of work. The commission found that existing safety legislation was severely limited both in its scope and in its ability to help overcome the safety and health hazards which can arise in the modern workplace.

The commission described its report as a "negotiated consensus". It set down several considerations in its report which I would like to recall and endorse at this stage. These points illustrate very clearly the philosophy underlying our future approach to safety and health at work in this country as expressed in the Bill.

The commission was convinced that a system which does not clarify who is responsible for what will fail to provide for the safety and health of workers. A major objective of the system proposed by the commission was to restore a sense of responsibility and to assign responsibilities where they belong. It emphasised that responsibility for safety and health at work flows from the highest level of management through the supervisor and rests also on the worker, who, too, has a direct responsibility. Safety must be a built-in feature of the organisation of work. A proper preventive strategy is essential, starting at the design and planning stage of production. Safe production is the direct responsibility of management which should have adequate expertise. If management does not have the necessary expertise, outside help must be called upon. While the services of safety and health specialists as well as consultation with the workers can be valuable, they are no substitute for the discharge by management of their overall responsibility for safety and health at work.

On the proposition that the main emphasis would be on enterprises themselves solving their own problems, the role of the State would be to provide the basic legal and organisational structures to facilitate this. The State would also ensure coherence to unify the contributions of a wide variety of institutions. Minimum legal standards would need to be laid down in the case of serious hazards. The ideal system would consist of a careful balance between compliance by employers with established standards and a selective, permissive process of advice, inspection and enforcement. The system should be dynamic, not static, and mechanisms for review and appraisal are necessary at the national level and in the workplace.

The commission considered it essential that at the level of the State there should be a single national body responsible for overall policy, co-ordination and control.

In a competitive world, it will have the task of persuading management that, apart from statutory duty, it is very much in their own interests to give time and attention to safety and health.

The present system is geared almost exclusively to factories, mines and quarries and the construction sector. It covers about 20 per cent of the workforce. The commission was concerned that areas such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, transport, laboratories and hospitals were not covered. Also many self-employed persons in construction, commerce, agriculture, forestry and fishing were outside the system. The commission argued that the new system should, as a matter of principle, cover all workers. I feel that our approach is justified by the obligation laid down in Article 45.4.2 of the Constitution to "endeavour to ensure that the strength and health of workers shall not be abused". Our safety and health legislation should apply therefore to all workers.

The knowledge, goodwill and commitment already existing in the community is the best foundation on which to build a system more attuned to the needs of a society undergoing rapid technological change in many occupations. Such a system is more appropriate for a young population with changing attitudes to authority and, also, more responsive to a society with a rising level of concern about the hazards of the working environment.

Owing to the limited scope of the existing legal system, overall data are not available on occupational accidents generally, whether fatal or non-fatal. An indication of the extent of the problem, however, may be got from the limited data available.

For example, the total number of accidents reported to my Department in respect of factories and mines and quarries is still over 3,000 per year. These do not include accidents resulting in less than three days absence from work. In the case of occupations outside the scope of existing legislation, there are no reliable systems to show the number of accidents occurring annually. While there are no figures available on the total number of accidents at work in the agricultural sector, a recent survey by Dr. Yvonne Doyle concluded that there may be as many as three farming deaths for every fatality in industry. Non-fatal injuries on farms are comparable with those in all other industries even though there are fewer workers in farming.

The Barrington Commission estimated that each year there occurs between 200,000 and 400,000 "damage-only" accidents, between 150,000 and 250,000 "first-aid" accidents and between 4,000 and 36,000 accidents involving slight injury causing one to three days absence from work.

In addition to the serious consequences which accidents at work can have in human terms for the victims and their dependants, they also give rise to heavy financial costs for the individual, the enterprise and the economy as a whole.

As a member of the European Community, many of our activities and policies on safety and health are influenced by Community directives and developments. The creation of the single European market by 1992 will provide an enormous opportunity for economic development provided that we are properly prepared for it. While the focus of the single market is the elimination throughout member states of various restrictions which up to now acted as barriers to trade, the process also involves a crucial social dimension. The European Commission has proposed six new directives on safety and health at work which are aimed at protecting the safety and health of workers in the context of increasing economic activity.

Those proposals include a draft framework directive which sets down general duties on employers and workers and which includes requirements as regards consultation and training of workers very much along the lines of the general provisions in the Bill. The Council has reached a common position on the draft framewiork directive and it will now be considered in a second reading by the European Parliament. Discussions have also commenced on the other proposals. These proposals, together with a range of other directives already adopted or awaiting formal adoption, apply to all forms of employment in contrast to existing Irish safety legislation. Our existing safety and health legislation is totally inadequate to implement many of the European Community proposals as they stand. However, the Bill which I have introduced provides a basis for meeting the requirements of those proposals.

I come now to a general outline of the legislation. The Bill represents the most radical initiative as regards safety and health at work since the foundation of the State. As I have already mentioned, the new legislation will apply to all persons engaged in work activities of any description — whether those persons are employees, employers or the self-employed. In a further departure from the traditional approach, employers and the self-employed will be required under the legislation to have regard also to the safety and health of non-employees who may be affected by work activities.

Legislation such as this must be dynamic and capable of adapting to new circumstances and to changes in technology. The Bill avoids therefore any hard and fast definitions of the terms safety, health and welfare at work. These concepts are not new. Based on the earlier legislation, the courts, employers and workers understand them. The essential criterion is that they are work related. The Bill does not apply, therefore, to accidents outside the course of work, to general health problems nor as regards the provision of recreational facilities.

In contrast with existing safety legislation, the Bill does not set out a detailed series of specific requirements and prohibitions as regards safety and health to be observed at each place of work. Instead, it sets out broad general duties of care for all employers, employees and the self-employed. Broadly speaking, those general duties of care involve the provision of a safe place of work, safe plant and equipment and a safe system of work. Other requirements include adequate training and information for those at risk about the relevant hazards and the steps taken to deal with them. The Bill also places broad general duties of care on those who design, manufacture, import, supply, install, etc. articles and substances for use at work.

The general duties in the Bill may be supplemented or amplified, as necessary, by regulations and codes of practice developed under the Bill covering an extensive and diverse range of issues. The Fourth Schedule sets out a detailed list of matters which can be covered in regulations. A code of practice under the Bill will mean any standard, specification, or other written or illustrated code providing practical guidance as regards observance of the legislation. It is anticipated that there will be frequent recourse to the use of codes of practice under the new system. It is likely that such codes can be better attuned to the needs of those at the place of work than detailed sets of statutory regulations.

Regulations, by their nature, may not be easily understood by those who are affected by them. It should be possible to indicate in simpler terms in codes of practice possible ways of compliance with the relevant statutory provisions. Failure to observe a code of practice will not in itself render any person liable to civil or criminal proceedings but the observance or failure to observe a code which relates to any of the relevant statutory provisions may be admissible in evidence in the courts in criminal proceedings.

As I have said earlier, the overall thrust of the new approach to safety and health is that the primary responsibility for implementing and observing appropriate standards will rest with those who create and manage the risks at the place of work. The role of the State will be to provide appropriate advice and guidance and to ensure that an adequate supervisory and enforcement system exists.

Each employer and self-employed person will be required to identify and assess the hazards which exist at his place of work and to prepare a written safety policy statement which will specify the manner in which the safety, health and welfare of persons at the place of work is to be secured.

Co-operation between employers and workers will be a key feature of the new system to enable it to operate effectively. Employers will be required to consult their employees on matters relating to safety, health and welfare and employees will have the right to choose the type of consultative mechanism best suited for those purposes. The Bill specifically enables employees to appoint safety representatives to represent them in consultations with their employer and to carry out a range of other functions provided for in the Bill, including the carrying out of inspections, and the investigation of accidents and dangerous occurrences at the place of work.

The Bill allows for a flexible approach to safety consultation more suited to the special characteristics and needs of each particular place of work than was possible, for example, under the corresponding provisions of the Safety in Industry Acts. The Barrington Commission also regarded adequate consultation between employers and workers as a key feature of the new system and said that the rigid prescription in the Safety in Industry Acts as regards the size and type of safety committees required could discourage effective dialogue. I believe that the formula provided for in the Bill meets those criticisms.

The conditions applying in the various sectors of employment can be examined and decisions taken on the most appropriate format for consultation in each sector. The arrangements can then be set out in codes of practice or regulation, if necessary. It needs to be stressed, however, that where safety committees established under the Safety in Industry Acts function adequately to the satisfaction of the employer and the workers, they may continue to operate under the formula set out in the Bill. I know that much good work has been carried out in recent years as regards training in the operation of safety committees and the Bill is not intended to undermine those where they are operating satisfactorily and meeting the consultation needs of both workers and employers.

While the main thrust of the Bill is directed towards employers, employees and the self-employed, it also provides for the safety and health of non-employees affected by work activities. However, the authority being established under the Bill will be expected to concentrate its efforts on worker protection. In areas where the predominant risk is to the public, it would not be for the authority to be involved in safeguarding the public against that risk. The Bill does not cover matters such as general environmental issues which are properly the responsibility of other Government Departments and institutions.

At national level one of the major changes under the Bill will be the establishment of a National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health. The authority will have a clear, identifiable and undisputed responsibility for issues relating to occupational safety and health at all places of work. It will be responsible for the general administration of the new system and it will be required to provide an expert centre of advice and information for employers and workers to assist them in meeting their obligations. It will also be responsible for the enforcement of the relevant statutory provisions except to the extent that other bodies may be prescribed by regulations to enforce the provisions in certain specified cases or areas.

As I have pointed out, the Barrington Commission was very clear in its report that the new system of safety and health, in which a major responsibility would be shared by both sides of industry, depended on the establishment of a tripartite body with executive powers and power to recruit its own staff. The authority, accordingly, will be a State-sponsored body, with a board comprising a chairman, three employers' representatives, three workers' representatives and four representatives of the State or other appropriate bodies. The board of the authority is so balanced that employers' and workers' representatives will have a major share in responsibility for the development and implementation of overall policy on safety and health at work at national level. Provision for employee participation at sub-board level in the authority should be made in line with the provisions applying to a large number of State bodies under the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act, 1988.

In developing its policies the authority will be able to avail of the advice of advisory committees representatives of sectoral and other expert interests. The committees will provide an advisory mechanism through which the authority can obtain the valuable inputs of many organisations which have expressed a wish to contribute to the evolution of occupational safety and health arrangements.

The authority will be able to recruit its own staff subject to the usual controls that apply in the case of public sector bodies. Initially the authority will be staffed by civil servants designated by the Minister for Labour for employment by the authority. The Bill contains the usual provisions regarding preservation of pay and conditions of employment of transferred civil servants.

The authority will be financed by the Exchequer and it will be subject to all the standard accounting and reporting controls that apply to public sector bodies. The authority will be required to keep under review the various statutory provisions relating to safety and health at work and, from time to time, to make poposals to the Minister for Labour or to other appropriate Ministers for making or revoking regulations, orders or codes of practice under those provisions. The Bill effectively provides for gradual review, replacement and revocation of the existing safety and health laws in keeping with the objective of establishing a unified comprehensive system. Before making any such proposals to the Minister the authority will be required under the Bill to consult relevant interests. The Bill also requires the Minister to consult the authority before making regulations under the relevant statutory provisions.

The existing enactments on safety and health at work, including the Safety in Industry Acts, the Mines and Quarries Act, the Office Premises Act and the Dangerous Substances Acts and their various regulations and orders, will initially stay in place alongside the new general provisions of the Bill. A number of repeals of provisions of those enactments are being effected through the Bill in order to avoid overlapping or duplication when corresponding or related provisions of the Bill are brought into operation. The Bill also contains provisions enabling the repeal of the remaining provisions of the existing enactments to be made effective in whole or part by orders of the Minister.

The Barrington Commission's proposals highlighted the need to develop an effective preventive approach to safety and health hazards. It follows, therefore, that the authority will have a prime role in providing appropriate advice and information to employers and workers on the prevention of accidents and diseases at work. This will be an important aspect of the work of the authority, particularly in the early stages of its development as regards sectors and workplaces coming within the statutory system for the first time.

The Authority will have overall responsibility for enforcing the new legislation and the existing enactments on safety and health. However, other bodies such as local authorities may be prescribed in regulation under the Bill as "enforcing agencies" to enforce the provisions in lieu of the authority in specified cases or areas. The possibility also exists for the authority to enter into agreements with Government Departments or other bodies for those bodies to discharge functions on behalf of the authority in specific areas or cases.

Although the persuasive or advisory approach to safety and health issues is a strong feature of the new provisions, it is recognised that, where that approach fails or is likely to fail, the possibility must exist of applying appropriate controls and of imposing realistic sanctions likely to act as deterrents.

Inspectors of the Authority and enforcing agencies will have a standard set of general enforcement powers under the legislation, such as the power to enter places of work and to carry out examinations of the place of work or articles and substances found there. Those powers largely reflect the powers currently exercised by industrial inspectors under the existing safety enactments. Some modifications and additional general powers are, however, incorporated in the Bill. The Bill also provides for a range of new or modified specific enforcement measures which may be used by inspectors, including improvement directions and plans, improvement notices and prohibition notices.

If an inspector is of the opinion that a work activity involves or will involve a risk to the safety or health of persons he may direct that an "improvement plan" be submitted to him, specifying the remedial action proposed to be taken as regards the risk concerned. This particular provision is aimed at encouraging a dialogue between the inspector and employer in which the employer is encouraged to develop preventive steps in the case of identified risks over a given period of time.

If a person fails to submit or implement an "improvement plan" or if the inspector is of the opinion that a person has contravened any of the relevant statutory provisions, he may serve an "improvement notice" on that person requiring him to remedy the contravention within a specified period.

There will be occasions however, in which an inspector will encounter an immediate and serious risk to workers. If an inspector is of the opinion that a work activity involves or is likely to involve a risk of serious personal injury he may serve a "prohibition notice" prohibiting the carrying on of that activity until the matters specified in the notice have been remedied.

The Bill provides for an appeal procedure through the courts for persons on whom an improvement notice or prohibition notice is served. Finally, the authority or an enforcing agency may apply ex-parte to the High Court for an order prohibiting or restricting the use of any place of work or any part of it where there is a serious risk to the safety or health of persons. Any such order will have effect despite any permission under any other enactment for the use of that place.

The Bill empowers officers of customs and excise to detain articles and substances for use at work at the point of import. This is in order to ensure that workers are provided with the same protection from imported articles and substances for use at work as would apply under the Bill in the case of articles and substances produced in Ireland. Such detention may not exceed two days and its purpose is to enable an inspector to exercise any of the powers or duties conferred on him under the Bill or any of the existing enactments in relation to that article or substance.

Where the enforcement measures referred to earlier do not have the desired effect or where there are serious or persistent contraventions of the legislation, the possibility of prosecution is essential. The Bill provides for a comprehensive range of offences which may be tried either summarily or on indictment. The Barrington Commission said that penalties needed to be re-examined, all the more so since, by expanding the range of mechanisms available to the inspector, prosecutions will be restricted to the more serious cases.

The Bill provides, therefore, for a range of penalties which are designed to act as real deterrents. Most offences under the Bill are liable to attract fines of up to £1,000 on summary conviction. A fine of up to £15,000 can be imposed for conviction on indictment. In the case of a limited number of offences, including breach of a prohibition notice, a person convicted on indictment may be liable, together with or instead of the fine, to imprisonment for up to two years. The Bill also updates the levels of penalties in the existing enactments to bring them generally into line with the penalties set down in the Bill.

If the authority is to function effectively it will be essential for it to have access to necessary information on safety and health at company level.

The Bill contains provisions regarding the obtaining of information from enterprises relating to safety and health at work. It also includes safeguards in relation to information so obtained, including the circumstances in which it may be disclosed by or on behalf of the authority and for what purposes.

As regards any accident, disease, occurrence or other matter related to the general purposes of the Bill, the legislation provides that the authority may arrange for the carrying out of an investigation and the production of a special report. The authority is also empowered by the Bill, with the consent of the Minister, to direct a formal tribunal to hold an inquiry into any such matter.

At present premises to which the Safety in Industry Acts apply are outside the scope of the Fire Services Act, 1981. An amendment being effected through the Bill will remove this anomaly and such premises will be subject to the provisions of fire prevention legislation like all other commercial premises. The enactment of that Act brought about a comprehensive approach to tackling fire safety in this country and it is appropriate now to bring industrial premises within that system. Certain premises to which the Dangerous Substances Acts apply including oil jetties, on account of the types of fire risk present, will continue to remain outside the scope of the Fire Services Act.

The Minister for Labour may, through regulations, prescribe work activities which will be subject to licensing requirements. Such work activities may only be carried on in accordance with the terms of a licence issued by the authority. The Bill provides for an appeal against a refusal to issue any such licence or against the conditions attached to a licence.

Having regard to the general nature of the duties set down in the Bill and since it does not prescribe detailed specific requirements in the traditional manner, it is impossible to quantify exactly the costs likely to arise at company or at national level in its implementation. However, it can be said that enterprises which already have a safe place of work and a safe system of work will not incur significant additional costs in complying with the requirements of the Bill.

Good safety and health practices are not necessarily costly. The accidents in industry reported to my Department indicate that many are caused by such mundane factors as objects or persons falling, handling equipment or goods and stepping on or striking objects. The elimination of these risks does not necessarily involve expenditure on protective equipment and devices. I am convinced that most low technology accidents can be eliminated if a clear priority is given to safety and health in the workplace, if there is better training and supervision, if good housekeeping practices are followed, if the hazards are identified and the necessary information given to workers and if problems are sorted out between the employer and workers through the consultative process. Above all, employers must shed the notion that accidents are inevitable. They must recognise that most often accidents are a human rather than a technical problem. They must be convinced that efforts expended by them, as employers, will be rewarded by a reduction in accidents.

As far as costs to the State are concerned arising from the Bill, the Barrington Commission made it clear that the large task of ensuring the safety and health of all workers will have to be tackled on a phased basis. The new authority will need to decide its strategy for achieving this and to make proposals as regards its resource needs. The Government will consider those proposals from the standpoint of seeking to achieve efficiently and effectively the objectives of this legislation.

An increased awareness of safety and health at work amongst many employers and workers has developed from the public debate on the issue since the report of the Barrington Commission was published some years ago. As a result several initiatives have been taken, even in advance of this legislation, in the voluntary, private and public sectors, particularly in the crucial areas of information, education and training. Employer organisations, trade unions and private enterprise provide necessary training. Under the aegis of my Department, a multidiciplinary course in occupational safety and health was instituted at third level in education. NISO, the National Industrial Safety Organisation, a voluntary body in safety and health, broadened its horizons and its range of activities. Initiatives such as those are welcome. Not alone will they contribute towards overall public awareness and expertise, but they will also help to relieve the direct burden on the State and on employment as regards achieving the objectives of the new system.

I look forward to a constructive debate and I will consider carefully all reasonable proposals which the House may have to improve the Bill.

Before I sit down I should like to say that it was originally thought that we would not start the debate until later in the day. The party Whips have devoted the entire day to this Bill, and I am not aware of how many speakers there will be, but if we reach the end of the Second Stage debate, could we proceed to the other Stages? No other business is ordered; I was asked by the Whips to mention this.

Is the Minister suggesting that we take Committee Stage today?

If there is agreement.

I am afraid I could not agree to that.

That is fine.

At the end of the Second Reading of the Bill, I will be putting that question anyway to the House and it can make a decision then.

I welcome this Bill and I believe everyone in this House would very much welcome and favour the maximum protection possible against accidents at any place of employment. However, both the Bill and the Minister's speech were deficient, they were one-sided.

Before I became a Member of this House, I was a safety officer at my previous place of employment. One great omission from the Minister's speech is the obligation on employees to observe safety regulations. This is not mentioned once in the Minister's speech and yet I would estimate that at least half of industrial accidents take place not because safety arrangements are not made but because they are not observed. I know, for instance, that there has never been a single prosecution under the Factories Acts, the Office Premises Act, the Dangerous Substances Acts or the Safety in Industry Acts, against any negligent employee, no matter how serious their contribution to accidents, even fatal accidents.

If our concern is for safety and health, we have to recognise all the problems and gaps that can contribute to the death and injury of workers in their places of work. This point needs to be emphasised in any legislation of this sort because there are two key issues other than the legislative provisions themselves. The first is the observance of safety and health procedures and the second the enforcement of the requirements of safety and health legislation. I am disappointed that the Minister failed in his speech — and so far as I can see, so has the Bill, although it does allow for secondary legislation by way of regulation — to put any emphasis on the responsibilities of those in employment to observe safety and health regulations. He put no emphasis on their obligations to their fellow employees or fellow workers. Unfortunately, that is a feature of much of our labour legislation. There is a great deal of talk about rights but very little talk about responsibilities, and in this case we are talking about responsibility to our fellow workers. It might be unpopular to say this because, unlike companies and firms, workers have votes, but workers' lives have to be protected against negligent or careless employers and also against negligent and careless fellow workers. I want the Bill to be strengthened to cover this major gap. I made this point when I shadowed the Safety in Industry Act in this House during the 1978-80 period. Indeed many of the provisions of this Bill incorporate amendments which I tabled to the Safety in Industry Act in 1978 and, therefore, I particularly welcome it. Observance is one major aspect in the prevention of accidents at work and I should like the Minister in his reply to tell us if statistics are available as to the cause of accidents. Does he know, for instance, what percentage of industrial accidents were caused because of a lack of safety provisions and what percentage were caused because of a lack of utilising safety procedures or provisions which were provided?

The second major void in this legislation — indeed it is a major void in almost all the legislation going through this House — is the lack of commitment to enforcement. During the past week we have heard reports from the Committee of Public Accounts on the many tens of thousands of prosecutions which have not been effected and the many tens of thousands of fines which have not been collected. For some reason we in this country seem to have a problem about enforcing the laws we enact. For years, we have had problems in enforcing our broadcasting legislation and when, as Minister in the Department concerned I went about enforcing the legislation, there was a rebellion on the streets. Therefore, I particularly welcome the progress being made in that respect now. We seem to have difficulty in coming to terms with the need for enforcement, whether on revenue law, labour law, broadcasting law, road traffic law or whatever.

This legislation is setting up a new authority who will have only four State appointed directors out of ten but still the Minister for Labour and, more importantly, the Minister for Finance will have a stranglehold over the affairs and effectiveness of the proposed authority. The Minister for Finance has complete control over the revenues available to the authority and the salary levels and the numbers who can be employed by that authority. That means that the authority will be restricted in the revenue available to them because it will become part of the general budget provided by the Minister for Finance and will be subject to all the constraints that public expenditure has to be subjected to.

The Authority will have no independence. Their effectiveness will be limited, not for safety considerations but for financial considerations. That is a fundamental weakness in this Bill. If the Authority are to be truly effective, if there is to be true enforcement of this legislation, it is absolutely essential that the proposed Authority have committed funds available to them and that they are not subject to the whim of the Minister for Finance. Safety and health are far too important matters for that yet this legislation proposes to give the Minister for Finance that power.

I know also, from my experience as Minister in charge of transport, that we are not enforcing much of the road transport and road traffic legislation for the very same reason — the transport inspectorate within the Department of Transport are not given the resources. They have neither the manpower nor the finances to enforce road transport legislation, with the result that a great number of illegal hauliers are abusing the law, making it difficult for legal employers and employees to exist. They are overloading lorries, lorries are being undermaintained and sometimes kept in a dangerous condition.

Does this legislation affect the mobile workplace, the bus, the lorry, the van? Does it extend into the whole transport area? Will the role of the new Authority extend to that workplace? Will they have any say in the enforcement of existing road transport and road traffic legislation? Or is it just to be a parallel arrangement, that we provide in law, as we have done in road transport and road traffic legislation, for health and safety measures but that we will not enforce them just as we did not enforce the fire regulations until after the Stardust disaster.

I want to dwell at some length on this question of enforcement. This House is wasting its time and fooling itself and the people if it continues to enact legislation but not make proper provision for its enforcement. I want to explore, with the Minister the financing of the Authority and to ask if there could not be some other way of having designated funds for the Authority so that they can be truly independent and effective and not be circumscribed by other wider and unrelated considerations.

I know that earmarked funds have not been a particular feature of our legislation, but there are precedents. We have had the youth levy, the health levy and PRSI. We have the social insurance fund and the occupational injuries fund. I happen to subscribe very strongly to the view that the total combination of these levies and funds imposes too heavy an imposition on employment already in our circumstances, although I know that by international standards they are not particularly high. I am slow to propose any addition to those funds for the purpose of enforcement of health and safety regulations.

I would ask the Minister to consider, as this Bill passes through this House and the other House, whether we can make some provision which guarantees to the new Authority some earmarked funds, so that we in this House can be assured that the Authority are not going to be tied down, inhibited and obstructed solely by financial considerations. This is the sort of thing that would very quickly get the chop in the tortuous budget ground that Ministers have to go through for months in advance before the Estimates are finally approved and published. This is because there are no votes in safety. Indeed, the more relaxed our safety enforcement is, the less hassle the Government are given and the less unpopular they become. There is not a great political momentum for safety in that context. The onus is on us in this House to make sure, before this legislation is enacted, that there is a reasonable certainty that the provisions provided up to now shall be effectively implemented and observed. While the principle of the Bill is very welcome, it will be a pious enactment unless we make proper provision in the area of enforcement and observance.

The Minister said that the ideal system would consist of a careful balance between compliance by employers with established standards and a selective, permissive process of advice, inspection and enforcement. That is a nicely written phrase —"permissive process of advice, inspection and enforcement". Of course, advice is another very important aspect of safety legislation. The whole question of education, training and advice is a third vital component. A great deal of progress has been made in this respect over the last number of years. Indeed, it would be remiss of me not to congratulate the Department of Labour and the factory inspectorate on the progress made since the enactment of the Safety in Industry Act nine years ago.

There has been a noticeable improvement in safety consciousness. For instance, in this House there are now fire doors everywhere; when I came into the House there were few. However, what is laughable is that in this House, as in every other building in which fire doors have been provided, they are usually left open. That is where enforcement falls down. The fire doors are provided, but are not used. When there is some great fire and we all die of smoke inhalation, the inquiry will ask why the authorities of the House or the particular building did not ensure that the fire doors were used. There has been, in my observation, a great improvement in the safety provisions made and in the consciousness of the need to make safety provision, but there has been no real improvement in the understanding of people that they should observe these safety regulations.

The Minister said that employers will be required to consult their employees on matters relating to safety, health and welfare and employees will have the right to choose the type of consultative mechanism best suited for those purposes. That is extremely laudable. Of course there should be consultation, but again we are talking about rights. What about responsibilities? This is where the scale is totally skewed. This is not a worker versus employer argument; it is a worker versus worker argument. If workers do not observe the safety regulations they are putting their fellow workers at risk. What provisions are being made by regulation to enforce observance?

I am disappointed that the Bill does not cover matters such as general environmental issues. We cannot have a proper Bill dealing with health and safety at work if it does not take some significant account of environmental issues. A goodly number of adverse human conditions and diseases are almost certainly caused by environmental factors, some of which we do not yet understand. There is the problem of male and female infertility, frequently caused by environmental or radiological factors which are non-observable to the human eye. I consider that these are important matters for inclusion in legislation dealing with health and safety at work. To what extent, for instance, have factors like radiology caused not only infertility but foetal problems, handicap and abortion of the foetus? There is evidence that where people live in the vicinity of certain types of plant there have been from time to time significantly higher instances of foetal abortion. If this is true of people living in the environment of such plants, surely it must be equally true of people who work in those plants.

It is a pity that the Bill does not cover general environmental issues. Many of the problems which cause disease or adverse human conditions like infertility are man-made environmental problems, arising from factories, power stations, whether nuclear or otherwise, and so on. The Merck, Sharp and Dohme case in Tipperary clearly centred on an environmental issue. We know the impact it had on a neighbouring farm but we do not know the impact on employees of that company. The whole question of the pollution of the environment, especially pollution which is non-observable, is very serious. In some areas at certain times when there have been emissions there have been increases in the number of people suffering from cancer. Surely there is an environmental dimension. These things are often not noticed for some years. Environmental and radiological hazards must be a prime cause of concern in any legislation dealing with health and safety at work.

The Minister might clarify his statement that the Bill does not cover matters such as general environmental issues which are properly the responsibility of other Government bodies and institutions. Of course there is a Minister for the Environment who is responsible for general matters such as water pollution, air pollution and so on, but the Minister for Labour cannot wash his hands of environmental issues, especially where the adverse impact on the environment arises from places of work and is causing serious damage to human health in the short or long term. I raise again the questions of fertility and cancer and the problems of pregnant women whose child may suffer damage or die due to environmental problems arising from a place of work.

I have already spoken about restrictions on the power of the Authority to recruit. The Minister spoke about enforcement by the Authority and said that the Authority will be able to recruit their own staff, subject to the usual controls that apply in the case of public sector bodies. There is the rub. They are cutting down on every public sector body. God help the Authority if they suffer the fate of the Ombudsman. What is the prospect for enforcement if the Authority lack the necessary clout? The Ombudsman was at least able to retrieve something because of his role in protecting the rights of the public. I do not see the proposed Authority having anything like the same clout in acquiring adequate staff. That is a fundamental weakness of the Bill.

The Minister also spoke about accidents and diseases at work. I would ask him to add other human conditions like infertility and circumstances which can cause miscarriages and conditions which manifest themselves only in later years. These are matters not covered in the Minister's speech.

The Minister went on to say that local authorities may become enforcing agencies. Again the spectre of non-enforcement of this legislation arises because we all know that local authorities have been stripped of any spare cash they had. They cannot discharge their main functions like maintaining county roads, building houses, maintaining water and sewerage services and providing a total and effective garbage disposal service. There is no sense in deluding ourselves that local authorities will enforce more legislation without ensuring that they have proper resources. This is a major weakness in the Bill.

Another aspect of enforcement arises. The Minister talked about the involvement of the High Court. He said:

... the Authority or an enforcing agency may apply ex-parte to the High Court for an order prohibiting or restricting the use of any place of work or any part of it where there is a serious risk to the safety or health of persons.

The problem is that the High Court may not see fit to grant an interlocutory injunction as happened in relation to the enforcement of broadcasting legislation and twice in relation to air transport legislation. If the Authority meet the same fate in the High Court — as Departments of State tend to when they try to enforce legislation — and take their place in the queue to have their case heard it could take two or three years. Meanwhile, the matter complained of could continue and the law be defined until the High Court is ready to hear the case. Of course the High Court is also affected by lack of resources so legislation enacted by this House is effectively unenforced or upturned.

Should we not consider taking labour questions out of the criminal courts? Is there not a case in the whole panoply of labour relations machinery for some form of safety tribunal which has technical expertise and understands technical and safety matters professionally and who could deal with these matters? When a case goes to the High Court it is heard by a judge who, by definition, has spent almost all his life in the legal area. He has never been in a factory, an office or a normal place of work as people understand it. What technical qualifications do the courts have? Is there any provision for technical assessors in the High Court? There is not. For all those reasons, there is a case for taking all labour questions — not just those on health and safety — out of the normal courts and providing a tribunal under the industrial relations machinery for this purpose. The Minister proposes to bring in another Bill, I presume later in the session, on industrial relations reform and I know he proposes to make reforms in the industrial relations machinery.

Is it too late to suggest to the Minister that not only in health and safety matters but in others pertaining to injunctions, etc., and the whole area of trade disputes, we should consider taking them out of the normal court and giving a judicial or quasi-judicial role to the Labour Court, the Labour Relations Commission or some expanded form of the existing labour relations machinery? It would be an advantage to have people who know and understand labour relations in the workplace, who have technical knowledge and who understand the lingo and problems of the workplace. They should decide these matters instead of the High Court. Perhaps the Minister will consider this.

The Minister went on to say that a person who did not comply with the provisions could be imprisoned for up to two years. This is laughable. Who is "a person"? Is it the company concerned? How can you imprison a company? Is it the managing director of the company who may have provided the finance but did not know that his officials did not enforce it? Is the public Department concerned? One of the good things about this legislation is that safety is extended to all places of work, including public Departments. If a public Department do not enforce safety regulations will we jail the Minister for two years? If the Dáil is negligent will we jail the Ceann Comhairle for two years? It is a case of making provision in legislation which is unenforceable. Realistically will any court put the Ceann Comhairle in jail because there is a lack of enforcement of safety regulations or, in his absence, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle? I do not think so. Perhaps I am being a little facetious but the same rule will apply to the managing director of any company prosecuted for this offence.

We should talk about much greater fines. The Minister mentioned a fine of £1,000 on summary conviction. I know there are constitutional implications for increasing fines beyond that on summary conviction but surely £1,000 is not a major penalty for some fly by night employers? They live with that risk. A fine of £1,000 and the same amount for every day the offence continued might make some sense but certainly not a fine of up to £1,000 on summary conviction. Admittedly the fine can go up to £15,000 on indictment but even that sum for a fly by night builder breaking every rule in the book is not a great deterrent.

There are many such builders in my constituency building houses in defiance of planning legislation and taking short cuts. Many of them are under pressure, some of them want to make a quick buck and others have various problems. They are not going to be put off by a fine on indictment of £15,000 — certainly not by a fine of £1,000 or the threat of jail. If a company goes into liquidation who would go to jail? If a Department of State is involved, who would go to jail? I could well imagine the Secretary of a Department arguing in court that it was not he who was at fault but rather the Minister or the Minister for Finance. That provision could very well bring the legislation into disrepute.

I would like the Minister to outline if a Minister is responsible for safety in his Department and to what extent this legislation would apply to Departments and other State bodies. One provision in this Bill which in one way makes sense but in another is dangerous is the one that would allow the Minister to extend the law or repeal existing law by way of regulation. That would make things very convenient for the Minister and his Department. There may be times when this may be the only way to make progress but it would also set a dangerous precedent as, effectively, the rights and duties of the Members of the Oireachtas would be delegated to the Department. Given the recent High Court ruling on Revenue matters, is the Minister satisfied that the constitutionality of this provision would stand up to a test in the High Court?

This is the second time that I, as shadow spokesman, have had to deal with a major Bill dealing with health and safety in the workplace, the previous Bill being the Safety in Industry Bill introduced in 1978 but which was not enacted until early 1980. I welcome the Bill and I hope its provisions will be enforced. I also hope that there will be an enlightened awareness among all workers of the need to observe safety regulations in the workplace. Above all, I hope this Bill will help in the years to come, possibly long after the Minister, the rest of the Members of this House and I are dead, to save lives, and reduce the number of accidents in the workplace and the incidence of disease.

At Question Time yesterday I raised a matter which had been raised by a constituent of mine in the past week and I wish to raise it again. The Minister for Health and his Department are becoming increasingly active on the question of smoking. It would be apt in this the first week of Lent when many people give up smoking if we were also to address this question in this legislation. My constituent does not smoke. She works eight hours a day and many of her co-workers smoke which not only is a source of great irritation to her but also a great worry. She has read of the effects of passive smoking — people have been known to get cancer as a result of passive smoking. I would like the Minister to outline in his reply whether this legislation may be used to ban smoking in the workplace. I suggest that people should be permitted to smoke only in designated areas, not where the generality of the employees work or eat. Perhaps this issue can be dealt with under the broad heading of environmental issues.

The Minister asked the House whether we could take all Stages of the Bill today. I would have no problem with that as I do not propose to table any amendments. As I said, a provision is contained in the Bill for the making of regulations. If the House is willing to take all Stages today, and if Members want to put down amendments perhaps they would give them to the Minister for consideration, and if they are acceptable, he could introduce them in the other House. I would also ask the Minister to consult with the other parties in this House before bringing forward regulations for approval. I should be grateful if the Minister would consider that request.

At the outset I would like to thank Mr. Justice Barrington and the other members of the Commission of Inquiry on Safety, Health and Welfare at work established in 1980, who subsequently reported in 1983. I would also like to thank all of the various bodies and organisations who made written submissions and the many people who gave oral evidence to the various subcommittees. Their work has been very worthwhile and their efforts have been rewarded by this Bill.

I thank and congratulate the Minister for bringing this Bill before the House but I regret to say that I cannot welcome this Bill in its entirety. Instead I give it a cautious welcome. I will clearly outline the reasons for my caution later and I hope the Minister will be able to reassure me as to a number of provisions contained in the Bill.

What are the objects of this Bill? The Bill aims to provide a comprehensive, integrated system of law relating to the safety, health and welfare of persons at work and to protect others against risks to their safety or health in connection with the activities of persons at work. The Bill also aims to set up a national authority for occupational safety and health and to provide for the repeal over a period of time of some existing enactments and their replacement by regulations and codes of practice.

It would appear to me as a layman that the provisions of this Bill would legally enforce people to do things that may well be practically impossible. I doubt if the safety and health of workers can be advanced by an excessive reliance on detailed and, increasingly, complex regulations imposed on workplaces from outside.

I see the problem in terms of reforms in the workplace based on clear ideas about the responsibilities of employers, workers, self-employed and others. The law has a role to play in relation, for example, to dangerous substances and setting the framework within which managers and workers operate but it is not a substitute for a sense of commitment based on responsibilities which are clearly defined and understood. The framework for providing safety, health and welfare at work should be to establish and maintain a working environment in which the physical and mental wellbeing of the workers is maintained at the highest level possible, to minimise the cause of hazards inherent in the working environment and thus prevent accidents and injury to health, to have safety, health and welfare standards corresponding to the technological and social development of Irish society and provide a basis where employers and workers themselves solve their working environment problems in co-operation with their representative organisations under the supervision and guidance of the State.

I must express very serious concern about some aspects of the Bill. Section 48 makes it an offence for an employer to fail to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable the welfare of his employees. The effect of sections 6 and 48 is to create a criminal offence of the vaguest kind which could be determined only on very subjective criteria. These sections are utterly vague. They are further compounded by section 50 which places on an accused person the onus of proving the impracticability of making greater provision. There is an argument that the concept of welfare at work is so vague and the extent to which it is practicable to ensure welfare at work so open-ended that the combined effect of sections 6, 48 and 50 may be unconstitutional. Without going into great detail, I call on the Minister to reply fully to this House on the concerns I have raised.

Every day people are killed or injured at work. The mass media — press, radio and TV — generally concentrate on major accidents in which several people are injured or someone is killed. As a result inquiries and investigations commence to find a possible cause and ensure there will not be a recurrence, yet our trade union movement enter into agreements with employers and employees in which the concept of danger money is readily accepted. Why is there no provision in this Bill to outlaw the acceptance of danger money which employers and the trade union movement feel they have to negotiate because of the conditions under which people are expected to work? Can the Minister enlighten this House as to the number of such agreements and is he prepared to name the trade unions and employers concerned who have entered into such agreements? Until this attitude is eradicated completely, those who are trying to provide better safety, health and welfare at work are only kidding themselves. It has been long established that the primary responsibility for doing something about the present level of occupational accidents and disease lies with those who create the risk and those who work with them. We will never eliminate the risk or reduce accidents or the level of disease while people are prepared to accept money in lieu of safety. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to making these practices, arrangements and agreements illegal. In certain circumstances these arrangements may have to obtain, but I would like to hear the Minister's views on this.

Why do we need further complicated legislation to deal with health and safety at work when we have some 23 Statutes which have some bearing on the various aspects of safety and health at work? These Acts are supplemented by a further 200 sets of regulations and they cover approximately ten different Government Departments. In addition there is a number of bodies such as the IIRS, the National Industrial Safety Organisation, the Institute of Health and Safety Managers, the Irish Society of Occupational Medicine formerly the Health Education Bureau, Occupational Health Nurses, the Federation of Irish Chemical Industries and many more, so there are many positive aspects of the present system which help in ensuring health and safety at work. The existing system of statutory provision, regular inspection, training, promotion and workplace organisation has made a significant contribution to saving life and protecting health at the workplace. However, the statutory supervisionary system has been starved of resources. Despite this it provided an inspection service which has found favour with many. Much good work is currently being done at the level of the workplace by companies, trade unions, voluntary bodies and concerned individuals.

The State's obligation to ensure that the strength and health of workers, men and women, shall not be abused is contained in Article 45.4.2º of the Constitution. This leaves no doubt as to where the responsibility for health and safety at work lies. It lies with the Department of Labour and with the Minister of the day.

Part III of this Bill deals with the establishment of an authority to be known as the National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health. At present the Department of Labour are the national authority for safety and health in the workplace. While other Departments and Ministers contribute to aspects of occupational safety and health, none have quite so clear or large a role as the Department of Labour. It appears that the Minister wishes to abdicate his responsibility by setting up this new white elephant to be known as The National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health. What initiatives, if any, has the Minister or any of his officials taken over the past number of years to improve the health and safety of workers? Any changes that have taken place are due to EC initiatives rather than the conviction of this Minister or previous Ministers and their officials.

A known fact, and this has been stated by officials within the Minister's Department, is that Ministers could not be bothered to spend time discussing health and safety at work because of more pressing and, indeed, more politically sensitive issues such as industrial relations or manpower policy. There is not any effective continual dialogue between the Department of Labour, employers, workers organisations or any other bodies involved in occupational safety and health activities. The rationalisation programmes which the Government have put into place over the past two years have resulted in the abolition of the Health Education Bureau and its functions returned to within the Department of Health. We have seen the abolition of the local health committees.

This proposed new authority has serious implications for the Exchequer. It proposes to set up similar advisory committees which other Government Departments have seen fit to get rid of because of their uselessness. Has the Minister decided on the amount of staff to be employed? Has the Minister decided to transfer all the staff currently employed in the Department of Labour on occupational health and safety functions? Will senior staff such as assistant secretary, principal officers, chief inspector, director of occupational and medical services be transferred en bloc to the new authority and what additional staff does the Minister propose to employ, such as inspectors and so on? How many advisory committees are to be established and what type of people does he propose to have on these committees? What remuneration or expenses are to be paid and what status will the recommendations, if any, hold within the authority, or are the advisory committees to be a talking shop, of which this country has many?

I have given careful consideration to the recommendations which were made in the Barrington Report and I am convinced that all of those recommendations, with the exception of the recommendations on the national authority, can be implemented within the Department of Labour by creating a distinct and separate section on health and safety at work. Where other Departments are responsible under legislation for health and safety at work, such as Agriculture and Tourism and Transport, I see no difficulty in transferring the staff from those Departments to a special unit within the Department of Labour. Civil servants are civil servants, irrespective of what Department they are working in, and this new section within the Minister's Department would be to all intents and purposes the National Authority on Health and Safety.

Part V of the Bill refers to enforcing agencies. Under section 16 (1) (a) and subsection (3) the National Authority on Health and Safety are empowered to appoint enforcing agencies. It is envisaged that these enforcing agencies will be local authorities. This appears to me to be a complete abdication by the Minister of his responsibilities. First, he takes the responsibility out of his own Department by setting up a national authority, then he gives the national authority the power to appoint enforcing agencies, which I assume are going to be local authorities, county councils, corporations or health boards, and then those local authorities are going to have to appoint inspectors and so on. I recall that not long ago this House passed the Housing Act, 1988, sections 2 and 10 of which gave to the local authorities the responsibility to deal with homelessness. I now want to tell the Minister, and the House, that local authorities have admitted that they do not have the resources to implement the sections I have referred to in that Act.

If the resources were not given to them in relation to the most recent legislation, can the Minister tell me the arrangements he is going to make with the local authorities in relation to finance and staff to enable them to implement this legislation? If the Minister consulted his colleague, Deputy Flynn, who is responsible for the Department of the Environment, or if the Minister consulted with any county or city manager or any chief executive officer of a health board, he would be told that there is a crying shortage of cash for them to fulfil the existing statutory duties in relation to the provision of services, housing and so on. Local authorities do not have the capacity to take on this extra work. Unless the Minister firmly tells this House the amount of money available to local authorities, the amount of staff available and so on, if he fails to explain to this House, or fails to reassure those in the House who are concerned then Part V of the Bill will become a bigger white elephant than the Part setting up the National Authority on Health and Safety. I regret I have to say that the more I read through this the more I see each group responsible passing it on to somebody else. The responsibility is with the Minister and he should not be allowed to pass it on to the National Authority on Health and Safety and the national authority should not be allowed pass it on to the local authorities. This section is unworkable for the reasons I have just stated. It is like passing the buck from one agency to another with nobody accepting responsibility in the end.

I should like to address the question of the cost to employers of carrying out substantial remedial work on buildings and premises so as to comply with the provisions of this legislation. Under section 35, inspectors have authority to issue improvement directions to employers. I am quite aware that there are a substantial number of employers who are finding it very difficult to stay in business and any additional cost put on them may be the difference between continuing in business or making further redundancies and possible eventual closure. In view of the intolerable level of people who are unemployed, will the Minister not agree that some financial assistance should be made available by way of grant aid to such employers, to enable them carry out the necessary remedial work imposed on them by the legislation.

I fully accept that no grant aid should be made available until such time as the Minister is satisfied that the particular firm are not capable of carrying the cost from their own resources. Will the Minister give consideration to including some form of financial assistance, within the main framework of the legislation or will he consider introducing some separate non-statutory scheme to help these employers, who may find themselves caught up in a no win situation. I accept that the idea I have in mind might cause initial difficulties in deciding how best to operate such a scheme but I am very concerned that the enforcement of this legislation would have serious repercussions on employment here at a time when every single job that we have should be maintained.

If any legislation along the lines proposed is successful, there will obviously be substantial savings to employers, the Exchequer and to society in general and, perhaps, the Minister might be able to come to some agreement with the Department of Social Welfare who operate the occupational injuries benefit scheme, insurance companies and others to establish some sort of revolving fund to help employers in the manner I have just outlined.

Can the Minister say how many inspectors will be employed throughout the country? It is vitally important for us to have that information. Also, is it intended that these inspectors would be employed by local authorities? Will the local authority be able to employ additional staff having regard to the present embargo on recruitment to the public service? If this responsibility is passed on to local authorities, the Bill will not work, because the local authorities are not in a position to fulfil their obligations under this Bill. Members of local authorities know that at the moment the local authorities do not have the staff resources to do the work they should be doing. The same applies to the health boards. Many health inspectors have availed of the early retirement schemes and the remaining ones are overworked. Adequate resources are not available to carry out the work of inspecting premises for the purposes of this Bill. Unless the Minister replies satisfactorily to my questions his hopes of having this Bill pass all Stages will be somewhat slim.

Can the Minister tell us of the procedures and the time span involved where an improvement notice is issued and an appeal is subsequently made under section 36 (4). Many of the improvement notices will be appealed and a situation could develop whereby no remedial work will be carried out because of lengthy delays in the hearing of appeals. What arrangements, if any, has the Minister made for the Authority to devise a system to enable appeals to be dealt with speedily?

From my understanding, where there is serious risk to a person, section 39 gives the power to close a place down. I would not like an unsafe or unhealthy work place to be allowed to remain open indefinitely just because of a backlog in the appeals system. I would like the Minister's assurance that that will not happen. I have been involved in industry and I know that when a notification from the safety inspector is received, it is usually put aside until another inspection is made and then the matter is taken up again. In the meantime a serious accident could occur and it could be the cause of a worker's death.

Section 57 says that

This Act shall apply to prisons and places of detention unless its application is incompatible with safe custody, good order and security.

In order of priority, will the Minister say if the safety and health of a person has a lower ranking than "safe custody, good order and security"? I believe the safety of a person is paramount. Will the Minister also say who will decide whether or not a place is incompatible with safe custody, good order and security? In a recent case decided in the High Court a person in detention was awarded compensation because of the failure of the State to provide him with proper safety. Will this section extend to institutions such as hospitals? In Cork city at the moment nurses have to work in shocking conditions and the inspector of mental hospitals has recommended in one case that the hospital should close because it is filthy and a health hazard. Also in Cork, nurses are being asked to look after people with infectious diseases such as hepatitis B and the State has not provided the money to have them properly immunised. I am told that in prisons where AIDS is rampant, AIDS sufferers cannot be segregated from other prisons. Is there to be one law for the unfortunate employer trying to make a living and another for the State? The responsibility of the State should not be less than anybody else's responsibility. A person working for the State is entitled to the highest standards of health and safety.

Prevention is better than cure and accidents do not happen, they are caused. Any attempt to improve health safety and welfare at work must address the question of prevention. The Department of Labour have failed utterly in their responsibilities in this area. There has never been a national evaluation of education and training in occupational safety and health. We do not know what is needed and what is being supplied. There has not been a fundamental exploration of questions of responsibility in relation to education and training. The official policy of the Department of Labour must be to make appropriate statutory provisions to provide resources to the national industrial safety organisation, to the Irish Management Institute and to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions so as to develop health and safety in the workplace.

The lack of education and training in this area within all these organisations is a result of the lack of money being provided by the Department of Labour. I am amazed that this Bill falls so far short in relation to prevention. Indeed, where there are statutory provisions on safety and health in the workplace, even these seem to be ignored. A classical example of this is the Dangerous Substances Acts and the Dangerous Substances (Petroleum Bulk Stores) Regulations, 1979 which stress that adequate training and instruction should be given by competent persons and if necessary on a continuous basis and that such training and instruction should be followed by adequate and competent supervision to ensure that all necessary and safety precautions are being observed. The Maximum Weight Regulations which prohibit workers from lifting weights above a stipulated maximum level was reviewed by the Employment Equality Agency. Their conclusions were that the statutory instructions in working techniques were not being carried out. This has been confirmed by the Department inspectors. All too often when workers take up employment safety and health training is inadequate and in some cases it is non-existent. Some of our worst accidents concern young people whose instruction in potentially dangerous machinery was rudimentary and unstructured.

All staff, workers and management, should be given adequate information by their employers, adequate training and instruction on the nature of their work and the hazards likely to arise therefrom as well as adequate supervision. Supervisors, who have responsibility to ensure that safety rules are observed, should be competent and properly trained. Young, inexperienced workers would need additional or closer supervision. It can not be over-emphasised that it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure training is carried out, whether with regard to encountering normal hazards or special problems and that supervision and training should obtain not alone at the commencement of employment but that refresher courses should be organised on a regular basis. I would welcome the introduction of a system that imposed precise responsibilities on managers and supervisors demanding considerable expertise of them, in ascertaining what steps are practicable and feasible to minimise risks in the workplace in order to arrive at an acceptable balance between production and safety for workers. Indeed, line managers and supervisors should be accountable for safe performance in the workplace and know how to implement health and safety policy objectives in organisational activities. It should also be their task to determine suitable criteria for the recruitment and training of new employees, knowing how to instil proper attitudes of safety awareness among employees.

My overall impression is that employers, whether in the private or public sector, are not giving sufficient training and that much of the training available is not well done. The provisions of this Bill should place a legal requirement on employers to ensure that the necessary free time and courses are available in order to adequately educate all workers on the very important preventive aspects of health, safety and welfare in the work-place. The initial cost of implementing such proper preventive measures would be fully recouped by the State through a reduction of fatal and non-fatal accidents, savings to the employer in man days lost, through reduced occupational accidents and insurance costs. These would be to the benefit of all concerned.

There are no easy choices in the provision of better health and safety for all workers. There can be no passing of the buck on this issue. Responsibility in this area lies squarely with the Minister for Labour and his Department. The establishment of a national authority for occupational safety and health constitutes an abdication of the Minister's responsibility.

I would ask the Minister to elaborate on the matters I have raised here before we proceed to Committee Stage. I have read this Bill very thoroughly many times. Its provisions are based mainly on the recommendations of the Barrington Commission of Inquiry on Safety, Health and Welfare at Work. I envisage many problems arising especially with regard to local authorities and to appeals and their duration before a defect in a machine or some such hazard is eliminated. I should like answers to these questions before advising my party on the line we will take on Committee Stage.

I add my voice to that of other Members of this House in welcoming this Bill. Along with the Factories Act, 1955 and the Safety in Industry Act, 1980 this Bill constitutes another step forward in attempting to eliminate dangers inherent in the work-place and reducing the risk to workers in the course of their duties.

As has been said by others, the Bill emanated from the recommendations of the Barrington Commission of Inquiry on Safety, Health and Welfare at Work. The commission's report, published in 1983, recognised the pressing need for additional legislation and outlined the main provisions which should be included in any new Bill. In this regard the drafters of this Bill were influenced by the British health and safety legislation.

The workplace always has constituted a dangerous environment for workers. Throughout the industrial age various types of industries and services have posed different degrees of danger. For example, mining, agriculture, the construction and service industries all pose their particular problems. Employers — whose primary aim is production and profit — always have endeavoured to get the most out of workers for the cheapest possible price. All too often that meant cutting corners, particularly in regard to health and safety. In the earlier years of the industrial age workers had to accept the most outrageous conditions. With the advent of the trade union movement there have been greater developments so that it could be said of the workplace today that workers should not have to work in conditions that subject them to any degree of risk.

The great advances made in mechanisation and technology should have brought about a healthier and safer atmosphere for workers. Regrettably that has not been the case. For example, technology has brought its health hazards, many more dangerous than some posed by the more traditional modes. Similarly new chemicals for use in agriculture, laboratories and cleaning industries have brought additional risks to workers. The difficulties posed by these new threats are that, unlike the old dangers, they are often slow, silent and lethal. Therefore their identification is the first responsibility of any safety procedure.

The need for this Bill is evident from the most recent revelations of industrial research. For example, widespread coverage of the details regarding the high incidence of rare cancers among staff of Teagasc clearly show that there is insufficient monitoring of workplaces in the detection of the use of dangerous substances. However, such dangers are not confined to agencies dealing with chemical research. The most recent statistics emanating from the Department of Labour inspection report illustrate that the construction industry is still one of the most dangerous here. For example, 12 workers lost their lives in 1985 and six in 1986 while engaged in construction work. The total number of registered fatalities in industry in general in 1985 were 18 and 12 in 1986. Therefore it will be seen that at least half of the fatalities in each year occurred in the construction industry.

The numbers of workers involved in non-fatal accidents are equally alarming, 3,580 having been listed for 1985 and 3,310 for 1986. Needless to say such statistics represent injuries reported by registered employers; there are no figures for the number of injuries to workers engaged by non-registered employers. Another point about these statistics is that, although they indicate a slight decrease on those for the years 1983 and 1984 we cannot be complacent. Since there was a massive decrease in the overall numbers of people working in those years one would have to ask how real is the drop in the statistics for fatal and non-fatal injuries.

It is against the background of needless death and destruction in the workplace that I welcome this Bill. However, my welcome is not uncritical and, for that reason, I was unable to accede to the Minister's request to take Committee Stage today because we will have some amendments to table. I have studied the provisions of the Bill in considerable detail and have many observations I should like to make at this point. I will be tabling a number of amendments on the same points for Committee Stage.

The most fundamental point I should like to make on the Bill concerns the question of self-regulation. The entire Bill rests on the principle that industry is capable of regulating itself. If that is the case there would be no need for any legislation. The statistics I have given constitute sad evidence that industry, when left to its principles, has been guilty of a considerable degree of negligence. Against the background of such statistics can we seriously expect employers to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all their employees as is advocated in the provisions of section 6 (1)?

Of particular relevance to this point is the present position of the British legislation on which this Bill has been modelled. Regrettably the most recent reports on health and safety in British industry show that the concept of self-regulation has not worked. For example in the past 18 months Britain has experienced the most horrendous disasters; the Zeebrugge, the Kings Cross Fire and, of course, the Piper Alpha. As the Labour shadow spokesman Michael Meacher said:

these were no accidents; they were disasters that were waiting to happen. Hundreds of workers and members of the public died because senior managers did not put top priority on safety; independent inspection was either absent or inadequate; employees did not have sufficient rights to speak out and defend themselves and the public from risks at work.

These are not simply political views. The Annual Report 1987-88 of the Health and Safety Commission itself made a similar point on "self regulation and achieving compliance". It says:

Thirteen years on, there are few activities in industry or in individual companies that can be left to their own devices.

That is after 13 years experience in Britain with this safety regulation where there was an element of self-regulation. It has proved most unsatisfactory.

In view of the British experience we should make every possible effort to ensure that the Bill before us today does not fall under the same limitations. The Minister could protect against this if he strengthened the case for annual inspections, made more specific commitment to the training of safety officers, protected employees from discrimination when they serve on health and safety committees and most important of all if the Minister includes, within the Bill, a clause to prosecute a company director or secretary in the event of there being a breach of the safety procedure. There should be a maximum charge of prosecution for manslaughter in the event of a worker losing his or her life due to negligence on the part of management.

The Bill, if it is to be effective, must be tightened up in all these respects. These points are particularly important when a Bill is depending on such a large measure of self-regulation. Self-regulation can be strengthened if the punishment for neglect is realistic and in line with the crime.

The Bill is too vague on the question of training, especially regarding training for workers who would serve on safety committees. Since it has to be accepted that workers are in the best position to judge safety standards, their role in assessing safety at work is crucial. Without the co-operation of a safety conscious workforce, a national safety authority would not be effective. So greater emphasis needs to be placed on worker training. Similarly, training must not be left entirely to either the employer or the union.

Employees who serve on safety committees and who may, from time to time, make reports which are disadvantageous to the employer must have a guaranteed protection under the Act. Their rights to job security and promotion must be ensured. This may be particularly relevant in a non-union workplace.

I am not happy with section 46 of the Bill which deals with special reports. This states that the Authority may cause a special report or part of such a report, to be made public at such time and in such manner as it thinks fit. All reports should be made public and be made available on request. This would help the safety process and ensure that the maximum level of openness exists. The Minister might also explain why the Bill limits the power of the Authority to inquire into an air, rail and sea accident. Why should these accidents be outside the scope of the Bill? I could envisage an accident in any of these areas due to negligence on the part of management. Again, to refer back to the British experience with the Zeebrugge, Kings Cross Rail and Piper Alpha disasters, would Irish legislation prevent inquiries into similar accidents in Ireland?

The annual report of the safety authority should give a clear outline of health and safety — full details of the deaths, serious injuries, incidents in which there were more than three-day-off accidents; ill health; any illnesses caused by work; any notices, inspectors' letters and prosecutions and finally costs of health and safety staff, organisations, training and improvements; comparisons with other industries and companies, etc.

With regard to the number of inspectors, the Bill should determine the numbers to be on safety committees. For example, I would suggest a ten person committee for 200 workers. The committees should comprise 30 per cent management input and 70 per cent worker input.

When the Minister's predecessor and colleague, Deputy Gene Fitzgerald set up the Barrington Commission to inquire into matters relating to safety, health and welfare at work, the men and women who made up that commission came from all walks of life, not just employers and trade unionists, but doctors, engineers, farmers and public servants.

The report of the commission is unequivocally critical of our lack of care for the quality of working conditions. However, it is also very positive in strongly recommending a change of attitude and a new approach to health and safety in the workplace. A long time has elapsed since the recommendations of the commission were published in 1983 until today when they are incorporated into this Bill. I regret that it has taken so much time for legislative effect to be given to the commission's recommendations but I acknowledge that the intervening time has not been wasted.

The interim board for occupational safety and health set up in 1986 by my colleague, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, has provided a forum for the exchange of views between the social partners on matters relevant to the Bill and has permitted a consensus to be reached on the development of positive attitudes towards health and safety in the workplace by both sides of industry.

This exercise in consultation was an appropriate overture to the introduction of this Act because I see the obligation which the Act places on employers to consult with workers on all matters relating to safety and health as a key provision of this legislation.

The Barrington recommendations, given effect by this Bill, see safety and health as a covenant between worker and employer. Responsibility for safety is firmly placed in the hands of management as evidenced by the general duty of the employer to provide a safe workplace and safe systems of work, by the requirement that employers develop a policy towards safety, embodied in a safety statement and by the obligation on companies to include safety management as an item in reports under the Companies Act.

However, workers share the responsibility for their own safety and that of their workmates provided they are consulted by management on the introduction and development of safe systems at work. It would be a nonsense if the worker were to have legal obligations to maintain safety without the right to consultation about the system used. That is where I differ from Deputy Mitchell who gave the impression that there was no obligation on the worker. I do not agree with his interpretation of what is in the Bill.

It is necessary for this House to remember when discussing this Bill that the Barrington report represented a consensus view, a compromise reached between the social partners in the interests of achieving safety in the workplace. The Barrington report is not an á la carte menu; its recommendations must be taken on board as a package. Workplace consultation is a central recommendation of the report and a cornerstone of the philosophy which the report embodies. In the passage of this Bill and in the implementation of this legislation, nothing must be allowed to dilute the strength of this provision or the Act will fail to be a moral force for change and become merely another piece of technical legislation.

This is significant legislation. Not only does it impose a general duty of care for health and safety on employers which goes far beyond their obligations under the Safety in Industry Acts, 1955-1980, but it also extends this legislative protection to 80 per cent of workers including the self-employed not previously covered by these Acts. Thus, teachers, health care personnel and public servants, as well as farmers, forestry workers and fishermen, will come under the protection of safety legislation for the first time. I am also glad to note that the serious consideration which the commission devoted to protecting the general public from hazards arising from work activities has been embodied in the Act.

In setting up an independent authority to oversee the implementation of the proposed Act, as well as all other aspects of health and safety at work, this legislation gives effect to another fundamental recommendation of the Barrington Commission. The Minister has resisted the current fashion of christening such organisations with obscure and often inappropriate and unpronounceable titles, and for that I compliment him. He has given the new body a title which is consistent with the dignity of its purpose and with the authoritative voice with which it must address issues of health and safety as well as identifying its function nationally and internationally.

I warmly welcome the publication of this Bill. It has rightly received unequivocal endorsement from the trade union movement as well as from employers' organisations. It is an historic document because it embodies a new philosophy of health and safety. However, if the Government do not see their way to providing the new Authority with the financial and human resources needed to implement the provisions of the Bill, the work of the Barrington Commission and of the interim board will be seen as a useless and costly exercise. After a lifetime of experience in the trade union movement it would be easy for me to make arguments for the need for resources based on humanitarian grounds. I could talk at length about the misery and human suffering which lies behind the statistics of serious and fatal accidents in the industrial inspectorate's report. I could talk about accidents in agriculture, many of which involve children under the age of 16 years. I could draw the attention of the House to the appalling loss of life at sea, to the loss of life and limb in forestry accidents and to the increase in stress-related illnesses in all walks of life.

I could make a case for adequate resources in this area based on our obligations under the European Communities Acts. The harmonisation of the market in 1992 will bring increased obligations to use this framework Act to implement and enforce secondary legislation in many aspects of health and safety at work, "in the interests of fair trade". However, I will not rely on these arguments, I will instead pander to the monetarist philosophy of the Government — I could not resist that — and I will base my arguments on sound economic principles. I will ask the Minister, in considering what resources can be allocated to the new Authority, to consider the current cost of accidents at work. Leaving aside the cost in human suffering, accidents cost money. They are a charge on industry and on the taxpayer.

Effective enforcement of this legislation to reduce accidents and ill-health at work could achieve a substantial saving to the taxpayer in social security expenditure. An estimate of the cost of social security arising from workplace accidents and illness in 1987 was 32 million and the cost to the health budget in the order of £80 million.

Potential savings to industry include reduced insurance premia — £100 million was paid by insurers on foot of accidents at work in 1985 — and a reduction in time lost through accidents, ill-health and absenteeism which could amount to as much as half a million days per year, far in excess of time lost through industrial disputes.

These are sound economic arguments for putting adequate resources into the implementation of this legislation. Add these to the obvious humanitarian and social imperative to reduce the pain and suffering caused by accidents and ill-health and the importance of adequately financing the new authority becomes self-evident.

I am concerned about one aspect and that is the role of this House when this legislation is passed. I hope that, unlike another body set up by the Minister — FÁS — where questions which are directed to the Minister are referred to that body, the same will not apply in this case because it is too important an issue and there are lives at stake. There has to be a measure of answerability on the floor of the House. The Minister should be able to provide the necessary answers to questions raised by Deputies on issues of safety. I agree with the main thrust of the Bill but, as already indicated, I will be submitting some amendments in the name of the Labour Party to which I hope the Minister will give serious consideration on the basis that they will strengthen the Bill and make the workplace safer for everybody involved.

This is a very important and timely measure and I am glad the Minister has found time to bring it before the House. As somebody who worked in the building industry for about 30 years I am quite familiar with the breaches of safety regulations and I am very concerned about this matter. I am very pleased to have an opportunity today of saying a few words on this Bill. Safety legislation needs to be constantly reviewed and updated. The Minister and his Department have a most important role in this regard. It is essential, regardless of what criticisms are made here today by various Members, that there is an authority that is alert and able to enforce the regulations. It is essential that the Minister and his Department would be seen as that authority and would not attempt to ignore, evade or welsh on their commitments in this respect.

At a time of economic recession and increased competition in business, safety regulations are often ignored. Cutting corners and taking chances often become, sadly, the order of the day. This often result in deaths, accidents and distress to workers and their families. How many lives are needlessly lost every year in factories and workshops and on building sites through avoidable accidents? When a garda or a soldier is killed in the course of his duty his death is given front page headlines and widespread publicity in the media and rightly so because the death of any person in the course of his or her duty is something that should be given attention by the public and the media. However, when a worker is killed during the course of his work his death does not command the same amount of publicity. Indeed, the news of the death of a worker in those circumstances is often tucked away in a paragraph on an inside page of a newspaper. As Deputy O'Sullivan has said, a lot more workers lose their lives in industry and on building sites every year than gardaí or soldiers are killed in the line of their duty. However, we take far too many of these industrial accidents for granted as occupational hazards in the industries concerned. This a mistake and I hope the present Bill will go some way towards improving this position.

The Minister and his Department can do much more in creating a general public awareness and consciousness of industrial health, safety and welfare than they have been doing to date. Much more public and media awareness is needed. Television can play an important role in creating such awareness as indeed can FÁS where the Minister has personal concern and understanding. All the FÁS programmes should provide training for apprentices and trainees regarding safety regulations, health and welfare but unfortunately that is not being done at present. Safety and health matters are often considered an optional extra. It is important that they be given a more central role in the curricula of our schools and colleges and especially in FÁS programmes and in VEC schools and colleges.

We can also learn in this respect from other industrialised countries which are invariably far more advanced than we are in the matter of safety regulations and their enforcement. More seminars and symposia are needed throughout the country and conferences and meetings should take place on the factory floor and on building sites. The Minister, in his speech, did not give enough weight to the matter of the enforcement of safety regulations. While the Minister and the Bill afford opportunities to workers to put their point of view in the workplace and on building sites this does not always happen for a variety of reasons. The Bill and the Minister treat employers and workers as equal partners in the matter of safety but the relationship between the two parties is not always an equal one. Unfortunately, workers are not always thanked for showing an interest and a concern for the enforcement of safety regulations. Indeed they are often actively discouraged from doing so, especially at the present time when jobs are so scarce. On the other hand some employers adopt a paternal attitude to the question of safety regulations, an attitude of benign concern, without enforcing the regulations. They set up safety committees on the factory floor and so on but in my experience many of these committees often become talking shops where people pull their punches.

Faced with these attitudes many workers keep their mouths shut and look the other way. I fully appreciate that it is not easy for safety regulations to reach directly into every factory, workshop and building site in a uniform way. It is easy for careless or unscrupulous employers to ignore or evade their responsibilities concerning safety. It is difficult to see how a national authority in Dublin can enforce safety regulations in every factory and workshop and on every building site throughout the country in a uniform way.

This brings me to the question of enforcement. As I have said, I have first hand and practical experience of the enforcement, or perhaps I should say lack of enforcement, of safety regulations in the building industry. Too many building contractors disregard safety regulations and usually do so with impunity. As we travel around the country, and especially throughout our own constituencies, how often do we see the most flagrant and blatant abuses of safety regulations?

In my experience small and medium sized building contractors are the worst offenders in this respect. I regret to say that builders are among the worst offenders in the non-observence of safety, health and welfare regulations. The same can be said of contractors who put in tenders, including a provision for safety, health and welfare facilities, but who do not carry out their obligations in this respect. Far too many building sites do not have such elementary facilities as a toilet, a washroom and a canteen. In the present recession which has hit the building industry most severely, many builders welsh on their obligations on safety, health and welfare provisions. Because of the high unemployment in the industry many building workers are not in a position to demand the enforcement of these regulations. This is a sad but realistic picture and assessment of the construction industry today.

This brings me to inspectors, or the factory inspectorate, as they were called in the past. It might be a useful exercise for the Minister and his Department to review the scope and operation of the inspectorate since the service was established. While one occasionally reads of court proceedings involving the inspectorate and employers concerning breaches of safety regulations, the cases are too few and far between. In most cases the fines imposed on employers found guilty of breach of safety regulations in the courts are far too small and derisory.

In the past there has been too much of a nod-and-a-wink attitude to the enforcement of safety regulations by the factory inspectors. Many of these inspectors have looked the other way when it came to doing the job for which they were paid. My experience dealing with them has not been a happy one. I recall on one occasion, following a complaint about the lack of safety regulations on a building renovation on a site in the middle of Limerick city, a delegation of building trade unionists called to see the factory inspector concerned in the city. We made our complaint to him but got little of no satisfaction, despite the urgency of the case. The inspector stated that he had a programme of visits arranged for the next week or two and he could not disrupt that programme no matter how urgent the case we put to him. This showed the bureaucracy and the red tape of the system. This was a case where there was a flagrant breach of safety regulations and where there was a danger that the building would fall but the inspector said he could not disrupt his programme of visits to other sites and factories but would call to the site in question some time in the future.

During the course of a further renovation contract on the same site some years later the Saxone building in the centre of Limerick city collapsed like a pack of cards. Fortunately that happened at about 7 o'clock in the evening when there were only two workers on the site, who escaped injury, and there were no passers by. Had it fallen an hour or two earlier it could have killed hundreds of people in Limerick city. That is just one unhappy experience I had in my dealings with factory inspectors, and I could give dozens of other examples but it might be wearying for the Minister to hear them so I will desist.

Far too many inspectors in my experience "telegraph"— to use boxing parlance — their visits to factories and building sites. They tell employers in advance they are coming and this enables the employers to give a cat's lick to the premises and take some elementary precautions to avoid prosecution. That is not good enough. Many inspectors choose soft targets. I have found from personal experience that inspectors frequently call on building works being carried out by local authorities — corporations, county councils, health boards, State and semi-State bodies. In the course of visiting those sites all too frequently they call to see public works and ignore dozens of private contracts where safety regulations are more honoured in the breach than in the observance, to use a cliché. I cannot understand that. They pick soft targets and cut down on visits to various sites, invariably public sites, while ignoring breaches in the private sector. That should be discouraged by the Minister and his staff.

The picture I have painted is bleak but it has been given by somebody who was a practitioner in the field. I worked for a long time in the building industry and everything I have said is accurate and truthful. There is no point coming into this House and telling the Minister something that is at variance with reality. No matter how good the Bill that the Minister is bringing before the House might be, it will not be rigorous and flexible enough to end all the abuses I have listed. It is important for the Minister and his Department to give increased attention to this matter. He must not be discouraged. No matter how daunting or difficult the task may be, no matter how many abuses I have listed, it is important for the Minister to be seen as an enforcement agency as well as a figure head in drafting and putting this Bill before the House. There are far too many lives at stake. It is time for a new industrial charter that would give priority to safety regulations as an important and integral part of industrial policy. The time has come when we must give industrial safety the position it deserves not only in industry but in life in general.

I am very happy to join in the general welcome for this Bill and commend the Minister for bringing it to the House and for having gone so far in response to the Barrington report. I share the reservations expressed by Deputy Jim Mitchell in relation to the resources that will be available for this Bill and the strength and capacity of this Bill to do what is needed. That can be undermined by a lack of funds from the Department of Finance. A perfect example of this is the office of the Ombudsman. Given that we all live in difficult economic times the Minister has put his best foot forward in providing a framework which will greatly improve the legislative provisions for proper health and safety programmes in industry in general and in our semi-State bodies. Here in Leinster House I would hope to see major improvements too because there are many areas that could be looked at. We will have responsibility to look after ourselves and our workforce, later I will refer to some specific matters that concern me.

There is a great need for this Bill. The Barrington Commission said only 20 per cent of all employment is covered by safety legislation at present. In his contribution Deputy Wyse outlined the extensive legislation, regulations and schedules in existence which cover many different areas of work. Despite that, 80 per cent of employment is still not covered by safety legislation. A general Bill of this nature is necessary if we are not to end up with thousands of Bills to cover the bulk of industry.

As a woman, I am particularly concerned that of that 20 per cent, the majority of women engaged in employment are not covered by any legislation. What are traditionally looked on as dangerous occupations are covered. At present women are unprotected by the law and by the safety regulations. There is a great need for the Bill to provide a comprehensive framework in which all industry and Government Departments, including the Houses of the Oireachtas, can look after their staff.

A number of speakers referred to the enormous costs involved and the extent of the problem. In assessing the extent of the problem we are caught by the virtual absence of any statistics in relation to compensation claims, occupational injury benefits, etc. In his speech the Minister referred to the Barrington Commission's estimate of 204,000 damage only accidents, between 150,000 and 250,000 first-aid accidents and between 4,000 and 36,000 accidents involving slight injury and causing one to three days absence from work. One does not have to be a genius to realise the implications of that for the Exchequer — lost work hours and the cost in medical terms to the country. I welcome the whole-hearted commitment to take this area up front and make it the front line responsibility of managers and employees in any industrial relations. This area was considered to be away down the line in comparison with the more juicy areas of salaries and income but now it is to be taken out of the closet and given a prominent position. This is urgently required for many reasons, one of which is the damage done to individuals due to tragic accidents and, consequently, to our economy.

The philosophy of the Bill is one of consultation and prevention. This is broadly welcome and it is evident that it is the result of a consultative process involving not just the commission but also the interim board on which both employers and employees were represented. This is an indication of what can be done in the modern industrial relations framework where traditional hostilities are broken down and people co-operate in a joint enterprise. The Dickensian attitude of an employer having to provide the minimum possible and the employee regarding himself — justifiably in those days but hopefully less so these days — as an adversary was the wrong approach and the philosophy of this Bill recognises that there have been tremendous improvements in industrial relations during the past 20 years. Managers in particular have become more open. They treat employees as an intelligent and equally important element in the workplace and recognise that they can share the responsibility for the way their joint enterprise is conducted. The provision of a safe and healthy environment is of immense benefit to both sides and it is important that we as a Legislature adopt that approach. This should be our ideal objective. These general proposals should be adopted enthusiastically in as many industries as possible and the FUE and the unions should continue to actively promote them among all employers.

The cost of accidents to the Exchequer can be enormous. For the past 18 months I have been deputy spokesperson on health for Fine Gael and one of the major planks in our philosophy has been the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and the prevention of accidents. This legislation fits in with the general thrust of our philosophy. Accidents are the major cause of deaths among persons between 25 and 45 years. Many of these deaths would be as a result of motor car accidents but a sizeable proportion of them are as a result of accidents in the workplace. People come into my clinic on a regular basis and tell me that as a result of accidents they cannot work. Their lives are completely changed and instead of being engaged in productive employment they are now facing a lifetime of dependency on social welfare. Often this is as a result of accidents which could have been avoided. The cost of these accidents is enormous and they result in increased taxation. The provision of resources should be tackled with the same enthusiasm with which the legislation has been tackled. Whatever expenditure is incurred in this area will be returned one hundredfold with the prevention of accidents and a reduction in the number of days lost in productive employment. Many people who now depend on the State were able to provide for themselves prior to their accidents. Because of the nature of our population there will be, for the foreseeable future at least, much dependency on the State. We must do everything possible to ensure that where such dependency is avoidable, it is avoided.

I welcome the commitment in the Bill in relation to consultation. It has been proven that this is the best way to approach most industrial relations issues. Most managerial functions benefit as a result of consultation and an acknowledgement of the role of the employee. The Minister claims that he has provided a basis for employers to inform, train and consult their employees on safety and health. I should like the Minister in his reply to say where the obligation to train is specifically spelled out in the Bill. I note that there is an obligation to allow time for training but I do not think that this will necessarily be adequate because it will leave to individual employees or their unions the responsibility for acquiring specialised information which may be necessary so that they can be properly informed. I should like the Minister to clarify whether the responsibility for training is adequately provided for in the Bill and to say whether it is a shared responsibility. The training of employees in any area results in substantial benefits not just for the employee but for the employer also. I would be interested in hearing the Minister's comments in relation to that matter.

The Bill acknowledges that certain areas of employment have developed, for example, safety committees who are working well, and this is welcome. The impact the Bill will have will depend first on the resources available and the approach of the authority in relation to their commitment to the on-going review of statutory instruments and whether they regulate new areas instead of regarding guidelines as recommendations to be followed. In this regard, the area of female employment is still very much in a limbo. There are guidelines for the use of VDUs but they have no statutory basis and, as I have said before in this House, they are more often ignored than observed. One very important feature of this Bill is that it places primary responsibility on an employer to have a safety procedure in place and it gives employees a right to appoint their own safety representatives and committees. However, if their responsibilities are left fudged they may not achieve what they might otherwise achieve.

A great deal more work needs to be done in this area. For example, in this House and throughout all workplaces, VDU units are becoming commonplace. Many secretaries who previously worked at manual typewriters and occasionally used a computer are now using these units daily. There are guidelines indicating that in this case screens should be used and that there should be eye tests carried out. I know that in this House those guidelines are not universally followed and not sufficiently thought over. This would be typical of many other places of employment. Work in the area of minimum regulations should continue. The Minister was somewhat unwilling to identify that as an approach which leaves the situation dangerously woolly.

In February of 1988 the Council for the Status of Women's Health Conference produced a report "Positively Healthy". "Major areas of concern to Women in the Workplace" was the theme of one of the workshops. The report mentioned that part-time workers, because they are part-time, are outside the scope of employment legislation entirely, that they have very little legislative protection. The whole issue of the protection of women in employment was referred to in the Barrington report. The new Authority will have to give urgent and immediate consideration to this area. The bulk of women workers — nurses and teachers — are completely outside the scope of the Safety in Industry Act. The conference that I have mentioned referred to a number of particular problems that women have and I would like to put them on the record with a view to the Authority, when appointed, considering in detail the comments made during this debate and taking on board ideas that have been mentioned. My female collleagues and many sympathetic male collleagues know the situation of women workers throughout the workforce and will support me in this.

One of the points raised was the hostility of workplaces, traditionally male, even in their physical design, to women. We had a great battle here a couple of years ago about the women's toilets being situated on the wrong floors and about the small number of them. It may have been an issue that was treated lightly, but it is typical of the problems of women. Having to travel a couple of floors for the basic necessities of life would add to the strain of the largely female workforce. That has been worked out but it was at the time seen as women being unnecessarily troublesome. In some workplaces desks and chairs are too high or wrongly designed for women.

Noise is considered to be a major area of stress. The Factories Act is the only Act at the moment that covers noise. As this Act does not cover a vast number of women, women are not sufficiently protected from noise pollution. Women do work in very noisy environments, in canteens, in offices with modern computers and printers, some of which can be extremely noisy. Safety procedures are not necessarily observed. I ask the Minister to look into these problems. In the House there is a very noisy printer which disrupts not just the secretarial staff but also members of the House. There has been constant lobbying to the Department of Finance that it should be provided with a cover, but the accoustic cover is considered to be too expensive in these times. I might drop a note to the Minister in his capacity as Minister for Labour asking for his support for my efforts to improve the situation for the benefit of all concerned.

There are also difficulties with legislation designed to protect women and which unintentionally becomes discriminatory — this was referred to by the Barrington Commission. The area of balance between protection and use as a means of discrimination by the exclusion of women from employment must be looked into. Women appear particularly at risk from chemicals, particularly because of the type of work they do, for example, cleaning operations and use of modern radiographic equipment which can have a harmful effect on the reproductive system of both men and women, but women mainly handle this type of equipment. This should be looked at in the general sense but also from the point of view of women in particular.

There is the simple matter of provision of chairs for shop assistants. This would lead to a reduction in the number of women suffering from varicose veins. It is a very simple proposal, but there is a total hostility on the part of employers to accepting that. They might see, if not a direct saving in the long term, that there is a need for education in this matter. This is where one sees the importance of the role of the Authority with regard to education and training and support of this type of proposal.

With regard to the use of VDU units, a very important aspect is that of breaks being allowed and good lighting and eye testing facilities being available. These are available in Departments but not necessarily actively pursued by management. As a result of this Bill, we want to see a tightening up of the relationship between the powers of the Authority and the effective use of the guidelines and regulations. A great deal more emphasis must be placed on minimum standards.

There are many other factors, one of which relates to stress being a major factor of ill-health in employment. This has been greatly added to by the cutbacks in public service employment in the last few years. This morning a number of my colleagues and I met the Irish Haemophilia Association. One of the key figures was a former nurse in the unit in St. James's Hospital. She described dealing single-handed with a group of haemophiliacs, both before and since the advent of AIDS and the immense stress and strain and highly emotional demands involved. In recent times doctors have spoken out about stress in their workforce brought on by cutbacks being such as to cause risk of accidents and of bad decisions. Probably it would be very difficult for the Authority to speak out on that area but if the Government are sincere in sponsoring this legislation they should be aware of these matters.

Perhaps the Minister might clarify, in his response, the question of the independence of the Authority. This may be very clear to those who have served at administrative level, but it is not very clear to me. The Minister indicates that he will give the Authority major responsibility in developing and implementing safety and health policies but that decisions on general policy remain in his hands as Minister for Labour. Could the Minister distinguish between those two aspects? Is he not tying the hands of the Authority in some way? I should like to be assured that he is not. The Minister indicates that minimum legal standards would need to be laid down in the case of serious hazards. I question this as an approach.

There should be minimum legal standards in the case of many hazards. Some of those to which I referred in my speech would not be serious hazards, but after a period they would have an unnecessary, costly and health damaging impact on workers. If minimum standards are not established, they will not be observed. In the Netherlands they have a minimum standard with regard to building whereby all rooms must have natural light. We have just constructed enormously expensive civic offices containing many rooms which have no natural light. The workers spend the day in a cavern lit only by fluorescent strips. That is an extremely unhealthy environment. Minimum standards must be laid down covering areas which do not involve serious hazards only.

I welcome the Minister's acceptance in principle of the establishment of an authority. There is consensus among the three main parties in the House that there should not be a proliferation of agencies, but in some areas they are essential. The Minister has obviously argued this case successfully at Cabinet level. It is central to the Barrington report that there should be an independent authority if there is to be any impact. I am aware that Deputy Wyse questions this and that his party have indicated they would not be supportive of this approach. I support it fully and believe it is essential to the achievement of the objectives contained in the Bill. I hope that the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Health, might do battle at Cabinet level and with his civil servants with regard to the establishment of a child care authority, which we believe to be vital to the success of legislation in that area. Minister after Minister has adopted the same line, even when our party were in office. In this case I do not know whether I should be commending the Minister or his civil servants but I welcome the approach which has been adopted.

We are anxious to assist the speedy passage of this Bill and Deputy Mitchell is willing to oblige, on the basis that this authority should be put in operation as soon as possible and enabled to begin the ongoing process of assessment and review which will be part of their work. Other speakers have indicated that there are issues of principle which will have to be teased out on Committee Stage. Perhaps the Minister when replying will respond to some of the points I have made.

It can be said about any problem that one can be too close to it. My personal experience in regard to this matter might almost put me into that dangerous situation. I could reasonably claim to be the most experienced person commenting on this Bill. I worked for a long time in heavy industry. For many years I worked in a supervisory role, responsible for the safety of others. I have acted as safety officer with a major industry and, most important of all, I have been the victim of industrial accidents. I am well qualified to contribute to this debate, but that experience could put me so close to the scene of activity that I could lose sight of many of the existing dangers, as has happened to many people through the years.

Many hazards were caused by bad training, learning simply by watching others carrying out a particular procedure and thus picking up the bad habits with the good ones. This is changing rapidly in the industrial training field. New methods and practices are being taught to young people. One might expect that this would get rid of potentially hazardous situations but the change is accompanied by new technology involving electrical and mechanical equipment which was not previously available. This new equipment has its own potential dangers.

A few basic philosophies need to be remembered and the Minister mentioned the majority of them in his speech. He stressed the assigning of responsibility for safety where it belongs. Everybody in the workplace has a responsibility for safety and health. That responsibility flows both upwards and downwards. Management have a major responsibility for providing a safe environment, but equally the employee is responsible for working in a safe manner, using safety equipment and observing safety practices in a proper fashion. I welcome the idea of making designers responsible for not putting hazards into the workplace.

Too often in the past, because of the old idea of continuing established practice, unsafe practices were not recognised until an accident occurred. An inquiry was then held and it was immediately possible to point out the unsafe practice. The mentality which accepted bad work practices had to change. In respect of many people the change will have to be forced and supervised in the proper fashion. Regulations must be in place to ensure that this happens.

There were arguments in regard to the old style practice and the new, that one could not bring in a safe working practice because it would be costly in lost production and too costly to implement by way of supplying equipment and various other arguments. These were foolish arguments because nothing will compensate for a serious accident. It means loss of production, very often damage to equipment but, most of all, pain and suffering to the employee. There is also a loss to the State through social welfare payments and generally the morale of the workforce is damaged. Where I was employed we had a number of fatalities as well as many serious accidents which invariably resulted in a drop in morale for weeks. At that stage managers and cost accountants realise that they are pursuing the wrong course in not availing of the safety advice available.

There must always be at least one individual specifically assigned to the area of safety. I do not just mean policing legislation and hounding people about wearing safety helmets, I mean engaging in research to ensure that every work practice is constantly questioned, that materials used are constantly checked, that there is ongoing research into less hazardous materials and ways of working and generally promoting safety. Up to now much of that has been done voluntarily by members of the National Industrial Safety Organisation. I was involved with them through safety quizzes and the State could not compensate them for their work up to now. They worked in areas where there was a shortage of legislation in a purely voluntary capacity with total commitment in their efforts to improve the safety record in industry. We can build on what they have achieved. I highly commend their industrial safety quiz to all companies because it ensures that employees who participate in it will get a knowledge totally outside their own work. They will learn about first aid, electricity and various other matters which will benefit them. The efforts of NISO should be supported and encouraged.

The Industrial Inspectorate need to have their role strengthened. I am quite sure they will welcome this Bill. I know they were extremely worried about weaknesses in various regulations which caused confusion among the workforce and employers regarding what areas were covered.

I welcome the decision to set up a national authority for occupational safety and health. Those who have not been involved in safety in industry may feel that this is another quango. I emphasise that there is a need for a body like this to liaise with industry and Ministers in general, not just the Minister for Labour, because it is astonishing to find so many Departments on which you impinge in tackling problems in this area. This body could give full attention to the safety of the workforce. I know that such an authority was a prime factor in the findings of the Barrington Commission. He said that all his other recommendations would be useless if such an organisation was not set up. Therefore, I welcome the fact that the Bill allows for the establishment of such a group.

There will be many differences of opinion between those outside industry and those who have worked in it. Members of the House will contribute who have never had experience of going into these dirty, smelly places where people have to work to keep the rest of the country going. I advise people to visit workplaces in their constituencies. To speak with any authority on industrial health and safety we need to see the kind of conditions that still exist in parts of the country, which are very poor in many areas. Some of them are poor by choice and the self-employed sector often work in poor conditions. It is important that all regulations are extended in this area.

Some people might see this as undue interference in private enterprise but the bottom line is that an injured person will fall back on the State, one way or another, and there will be a cost to the taxpayer. Therefore, all areas must be covered. It is on a par with the extension of PRSI to all sectors of the community.

The commission said that a negotiated consensus was reached and this is extremely important. Trade unions must back the legislation at all times in the workplace. In many instances this can lead to conflict because there may be a call on a trade union to support the dismissal of an employee. However, when an employee totally disregards safe working practices — the classic one being the wearing of a safety helmet — it eventually leads to a point where disciplinary action will have to be taken which trade unions must support. It is essential to have a negotiated consensus in all these areas. I worked in Irish Steel, a major heavy industry, and I found trade unions very positive and constructive in their approach.

At times there will be clashes but it will be too late for the making of excuses when an employee is either killed or badly maimed. We need to get the support of employers and, where this is not forthcoming, the State should go after the bad employer who disregards safety legislation, in a very tough fashion. People who have been crippled have found that an employer did not have adequate cover and carried out practices for which cover was not available. There is a duty on the State to ensure that this does not happen. I hope that this Bill will help us in ridding ourselves of a few more of the cowboys we do not wish to see prosper.

I appeal to employees to make themselves aware of what is contained in this legislation, to make themselves aware of what requirements would be imposed on employers, to make themselves aware of what a safety statement is, what must be stated on it and how it is to be enforced and to make themselves aware of and participate in the workings of safety committees. I also hope we will see an end to the "them and us" attitude. When these committees were first established, such an attitude prevailed and it was felt that the shop steward attended these meetings to battle on behalf of the workers only but I believe we are now beginning to see an end to that line of thinking. I encourage everyone to work as a team, as it will be to the benefit of everyone if they can work together in order to produce the best possible safety statement — the management and employees and the State through increased production.

There was a great need to bring forward legislation such as this. I do not know whether all of the issues I would like to see dealt with are covered in the Bill but I hope to read it in more detail later. The Minister has said that he would be open to any reasonable amendments and I hope that any reasonable amendments proposed by Opposition spokespersons can be accepted. We have to work together and we must educate employees on the importance of safety at work. The Minister has outlined one of the golden messages that we must get across, that good safety and health practices are not necessarily costly. Figures are available which show that it is cheaper in the long run to try to prevent accidents.

There is another old school of thought which says that accidents will happen. That is rubbish, accidents are caused and it is not inevitable that they will happen. In my former capacity as a safety officer, I believed that any unplanned happening had to be investigated in order to, first find out what went wrong and, secondly, to see if some new safer practice needed to be introduced. We have to rid ourselves of the school of thought which says accidents will happen — they are caused, and, as the Minister said, the vast majority are caused by human error. There is information available which shows that there are particular times of the day, week and year when employees are prone to causing accidents. Research has been carried out into the reasons for this. Again, I appeal to employees to make themselves aware of what legislation is in place, as they are the people who are going to suffer. Therefore they must be protected.

They can take precautions but there are those who have been in a job for a long time who would argue when one points out that what they are doing is not safe. There is a need to have a specific person responsible for safety in the work-place to indicate to people that what they are doing is not safe, that they have got away with it for 20 years but that they may not get away with it for much longer. I will not quote the number of accidents in the workplace — I have my own figures — but the public find these figures horrifying and find it impossible to understand how so many accidents can occur. Each of these accidents causes suffering and pain.

I mentioned last week that last year was the best year we had for many years in regard to the number of strikes. This was due to the fact that we have a Minister who is willing to hold dialogue with all sides of industry and all interested parties. He has shown that he does not take the side of any one grouping, be they the employers, investors or trade unions but rather that he will give each side a fair hearing and try to eliminate bad practices wherever he sees them. I am sure that Opposition spokespersons would agree that he has adopted such an approach and I thank him for it. I have worried about this in the past. I have worked in that field and I am au fait with previous records and lack of legislation. The Minister's approach in getting the consensus view is correct.

I welcome the Bill. Issues will arise that may have been forgotten or left out. Nobody has a monopoly of wisdom in this field or any other and I am quite sure the Minister will be willing to take those issues on board. Deputy Wyse was worried about the commission but I think there is a need for them. They were a pivotal part of the Barrington report.

On behalf of The Workers' Party I welcome the Bill. As other speakers have said, it is long overdue. It can have a direct bearing on the lives and welfare of hundreds of thousands of workers provided it is properly implemented. Many workers die each year and many thousands are injured, often permanently, as a result of accidents which could and should be avoided if there was a greater commitment to safety on the part of both employers and employees. Better safety standards are clearly in everybody's interest. No worker wants to be injured and even for employers injury to a worker can mean loss of production and, of course, additional expense.

The extent of the problem can be seen from the figures for industrial accidents in each year 1983-87. There were more than 3,000 notifiable industrial accidents in factories and an average of 14 fatalities each year in this period. There was a problem with the construction industry between 1980 and 1985 when there were 52 deaths on construction sites and more than 3,300 injuries. There are new areas of concern such as oil and gas exploration and development rigs. We saw the appalling potential for death and destruction on an almost unimaginable scale in the recent Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea. There is the increasing use of radioactive materials in hospitals, laboratories and research facilities. Some very worrying statistics have emerged recently about the number of cancer deaths among research staff in Teagasc. There is clearly a need for much greater research on the possible link between working environment and serious illnesses such as cancer. We know from newspaper reports of the number of deaths that occur on farms as a result of tractors overturning and farmers and farm labourers being caught in PTOs. There is the question of the effects on the health of workers from operating computers and the VDUs attached to them. Only this week we had a disclosure that potentially hazardous asbestos waste from a disused ESB power station had been disposed of in a way which could have been a serious threat to the health and welfare of members of the public. Only a few years ago it was discovered that a worker in this building, Leinster House, had been working for a number of years in a room in which there was potentially lethal asbestos lagging.

Many Deputies in this House would agree that the conditions under which much of the staff of this House — both the staff who service this House and the staff who service the Deputies in the House — leave much to be desired. Indeed, I invite the Minister to visit my office in this House and see the conditions under which the staff there have to operate. I am not putting this invitation out lightly to the Minister; I think this is a serious matter. It is a problem which faces most Deputies and their staffs in this House. There is overcrowding. There is no doubt that the jobs are very stressful. There is noise. There is a whole range of problems which the staff of Deputies have to deal with. I ask the Minister, if he has not power himself in relation to these matters, to raise them with the proper authorities in this House who have some power in that regard. We as Deputies choose to work here; we have a choice to stay or go, but our staffs generally have not that choice. I urge the Minister to take on board seriously the conditions under which staff here have to operate.

Extraordinarily, many areas of work have not been covered by safety regulations at all up to this point. I was astonished to find recently, following a serious accident to a young constituent of mine in a butcher's shop where he works, that, despite the presence of knives, blades and increasingly powerful saws, these places are not covered by safety regulations. The young lad I am talking about was fortunate; despite the serious nature of the accident he lived. Another young lad did not live as a result of a similar accident in a butcher's shop in recent months. As things stand there is no obligation on the employer to provide protective clothing for young fellows and girls who work in these shops. I hope the current legislation and the regulations which the Minister is proposing under this legislation will cover such situations.

Another group who have been brought to my attention is jockeys who train and ride horses for their living. A constituent in Dublin North-West has campaigned consistently since 1981, since his own son died in an accident as a trainee jockey, to have the regulations for this changed. Over the years I have been trying to assist this man, and I know other Deputies have done likewise, and I have tried to pin down responsibility in the matter. The only Minister who was in any way responsible for that area from whom I could get a reply was the Minister for Agriculture and Food. As recorded in the Official Report, 21 June 1988, column 1050, Volume 382, Question No. 70, I asked him the number of jockeys who died as a result of accidents while racing or exercising horses in each of the past five years, the number of cases where inquests were held, and if inquest juries on any occasion made recommendations with regard to safety standards. The reply was:

In the past five years there have been two fatalities as a result of accidents while racing or exercising horses. Both occurred in 1986 and involved a jockey and a stablelad. The time available has been insufficient to allow me to establish whether inquests were held but that is the normal practice in such cases.

I have been informed by the stewards of the Governing Bodies of Irish Racing that they have not received any recommendations from inquest juries with regard to safety standards.

The fact is there are no safety standards at all. Various pieces of headgear can be bought which in many cases are sold as safety headgear but provide no protection at all for the unfortunate young people involved. I hope the regulations the Minister proposes to introduce under this legislation will cover that.

I am a little concerned in relation both to that and the wider area of part-time workers with regard to the Bill and what it covers and does not cover. For instance, in a reply from the Minister for Labour on 21 June 1988 to my Question No. 128, column 1073 of the same volume, asking if he has satisfied himself that existing labour legislation is adequate to cover the employment of jockeys etc. it was stated that racehorse jockeys independently contract their services to owners and trainers of race-horses, are, therefore, self-employed and are not covered by protective legislation administered by the Minister's Department. I accept that there are provisions in the Bill making self-employed people responsible for health and safety but I wonder how that will apply in the case of jockeys and stable lads. In what way will they be responsible for providing safety equipment such as headgear and so on? In what way will those provisions apply to part-time workers who in many cases are taken on under contract by employers as a means of avoiding the various pieces of labour legislation already in place? This is a serious matter in view of the growing trend towards part-time employment and I should like to ask the Minister to address that issue when responding to the debate.

While some improvements have been made in health and safety standards in recent years it is fair to say that our approach to safety and environmental working conditions fall well below the accepted standards in most other countries. A survey carried out by the ITGWU back in 1986 concluded that safety standards in Irish industry represented a damning indictment of those with responsibility for the work environment. The principal problems revealed in the report were related to excessive dust, noise levels, eye strain and temperature. The report found that frequent health problems occurred in 34.6 per cent of the workplaces surveyed, with a higher rate in factories as opposed to non-factory environments. Almost half of the workplaces surveyed — just 46 per cent — reported problems with dust, which the report suggested were due mainly to inadequate ventilation or lack of proper cleaning. Noise related problems were found in 27.2 per cent of employments, and workers in 12.1 per cent of factories surveyed reported eye strain, but this went up to 32.9 per cent in the engineering/electronics sector.

Temperature levels caused concern in 31 per cent of employments and in some cases this was put down to the specific industrial processes, but the report also stated that the design of industrial premises was a cause for concern. The authors of the report said that the findings of the report suggested that management in general did not take health and safety seriously, but they also said that the very low level of compliance with safety regulations reflected poorly on the unions involved in the places surveyed.

The approach to health and safety at work must be a comprehensive one. Too often working conditions are only considered as an after-thought. The process must begin at the planning stage and must be an integral part of all stages of development. It should not be a question of seeking to avoid accidents, although this is obviously a crucial consideration. The aim should be to provide working conditions for all which will not only offer no threat to the health of workers, but which will be of such standards as will contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of employees.

In general we welcome the provisions of the Bill in so far as they go. The placing of a general duty on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their workers is welcome, as is the obligation on designers and manufacturers to ensure that articles produced for use in the work-place are designed, constructed, tested and examined so as to be safe and without risk. However, we are somewhat concerned about the phrase, so far as is reasonably practicable, which may have the effect of letting some employers off the hook.

We also welcome the decision to establish a national authority for occupational safety and health with its own director general and staff. However, it has to be said that unless the authority is given the staff and resources to do the job, it will be largely a wasted exercise.

The experience with agencies like the Ombudsman's Office, the Garda Complaints Board and others, which have been starved of resources and have had to battle for resources, does not give grounds for optimism. We are happy with the overall thrust of the Bill but we will table some amendments for Committee Stage. I hope the Bill will be passed without delay, that the Authority will be set up soon and that the new procedures will be operated enthusiastically by employers and employees thus making a worthwhile contribution to the safety, health and welfare of all workers.

I should like to thank Members for their detailed comments on the Bill. It was heartening to learn of the extent of knowledge of health and safety at work among Members. I am pleased to learn that there is almost unanimous agreement about the provisions of the Bill, with the exception of a number of points of detail. Some Members have pointed out that the Bill is based on a consensus approach. Former Deputy Gene Fitzgerald, now a member of the European Parliament, established the Barrington Commission and later set up the interim board. The arguments put forward by Members today show why the Bill is necessary and why it is important that it be passed by the House as soon as possible.

The interim board, representative of both sides of industry, considered all Acts and regulations dealing with safety at work. There was a consensus approach and it was accepted by all sides that there would have to be some give and take. As Deputy Mitchell said, we can have many laws and regulations but they will have little effect if we do not have an enforcing authority. It is not possible to have inspectors at every workplace, at every office, at the stables of all racehorse owners and race tracks or at every butcher's shop. It is not possible to include in legislation or regulations codes of practice to cover all eventualities. Mr. Justice Barrington and his commission, recommended laws and regulations that would create a comprehensive legal and structured system as regards safety and health at work with the clear objective of helping to reduce accidents and ill health at work which give rise to human loss and suffering and create costs for workers and the economy.

The interim board which was comprised of both sides of industry followed through on that and produced a report showing how it was possible to get an agreement that has the goodwill of management and workers. That goodwill will solve far more problems than detailed codes and regulations which, as Deputy Mitchell said, will be very difficult to enforce. It is not always the massive fine or the jail sentence that will force people to keep the law. I am sure Deputies could talk from now until the close of business this evening and give instances where laws have been broken and have been twisted by irresponsible people, but we have to be realistic and acknowledge that it is very difficult to control every little law and regulation. There has to be some give and take in this consensus approach, but we in the Department are happy that this legislation will work. Deputies who spoke this morning gave examples not covered by law. Hopefully, these examples, in one fell swoop will be brought within the law in this legislation. The general thrust of allowing openness in the regulations and in the codes of practice means that this Bill will not be outdated in a short time. During Question Time yesterday we referred to Dublin City bus workers whose major problems now relate to attacks by vandals and hooligans on the night services. Deputy Mitchell wanted to know if this would be covered by the Bill. It is covered. We will deal with this in more detail at another stage, but where people may be assaulted in their workplaces there is room for codes of practices to be set up bringing some kind of control and regulation That will not be easy, but this legislation is open enough to allow us manoeuvre and cover most areas. Employers, employees and the self-employed can be covered under this legislation.

Deputy Wyse wondered why an authority was necessary. I go along with the general consensus in this House that organisations which were once relevant but which are now white elephants should not be on our Statute Book. I have been responsible for amalgamating organisations which had perhaps outlived their usefulness. The FÁS legislation introduced not so long ago amalgamated State agencies which had outlived their usefulness and they have been streamlined more effectively.

In this area only 20 per cent of our workforce were covered by legislation. I was motivated to introduce this legislation when I realised that although only 20 per cent of the workforce is covered by legislation there have been over 100 fatalities since 1982 in relation to that 20 per cent. In agriculture alone there is one death a week. It did not require any more motivation than that to see that we required this legislation. The Barrington Commission estimated that each year there occurs between 204,000 damage only accidents, between 150 and 250 first aid accidents and between 4,000 and 36,000 accidents involving slight injury causing one to three days absence from work. Those are massive figures. An accident like, for instance, the Stardust accident where there are multiple deaths gets great publicity and people react quickly to deal with the problem, but there is no reaction when I say that since 1982 there were over 100 people killed of the categories of people covered by the legislation. However, that puts in perspective why we need this legislation.

This Bill has been easier to deal with because of the work of the interim board which identified the issues and considered the best practical solution. We cannot be too grateful for that work. This legislation has been in the pipeline for several years. Unlike other legislation that only sees the light of day when circulated to the public, this legislation has been in preparation for between three and eight years taking into account detailed discussion and analysis as to how best the legislation could be drafted so as not to frustrate changes in technology.

Deputy Wyse wished to know why we needed an authority. The Authority was the idea of Mr. Justice Barrington who felt that there should be an independent National Safety Authority which would ensure a higher profile and priority for safety and health than would be possible in the Department of Labour. Health and safety is a very important aspect in the Department of Labour and we needed a separate Authority involving both the workers, the trade unions and employers. Although there is an independent authority it does not mean that the Minister for Labour will wash his hands of these issues. The Minister retains legal responsibility for the Authority. When this legislation is passed matters relating to health and safety in industry will still be the statutory responsibility of the Minister for Labour. The day to day activities, discussion and drafting of regulations will be a matter for the Authority. The most important thing about this legislation is that the Authority will be independent, comprising representatives of both sides of industry along with nominees of the State and a chairman. That independence will enable the Authority to have the goodwill of the workers. That goodwill and co-operation between management and workers will do more to resolve many of the problems with regard to safety than will very detailed regulations or codes of practice. That idea is fundamental to the legislation. To pass this legislation without establishing an authority would be to say to Mr. Justice Barrington that we liked the detail of all his work but that we did not accept his main point. But we do not accept the Deputy's main point. It is important that I stress to the House that this Authority——

On the other hand, I do not think it was ever intended that we would accept it although there was a consensus within the industry. We would not be doing justice to the Barrington Commission if we were to ignore their recommendations. It is up to the House to accept or reject them.

It is but the Deputy must accept that one of the major recommendations of the report of the Barrington Commission was the establishment of an independent authority outside the Civil Service structure of the Department of Labour. Indeed, the recommendations were debated in my Department as they were elsewhere. It was accepted that one would not get the same co-operation from both sides of industry if one were to leave responsibility to a Department of State, that it had to be autonomous. Probably, from what we have heard in the House today, that is accepted by Members as well.

Debate adjourned.

I should like to seek your permission, Sir, to raise on the Adjournment the decision of Dublin Bus to suspend late night bus services to the north side of the city and the urgent need for the Minister for Justice to ensure that adequate Garda and protection are provided for those bus routes until such time as the service is restored.

I will communicate with the Deputy.