The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989 is the principal legislation dealing with occupational health and safety. It sets out the responsibilities of both employers and employees in relation to providing a safe working environment. The Act applies to all places of work and to all employers, employees and the self-employed. The Health and Safety Authority was established under the 1989 Act and is responsible for the enforcement of workplace health and safety legislation.
However, while the introduction of the Act, and the establishment of the authority in 1989 put workplace health and safety firmly on the business agenda, I asked the authority to undertake a comprehensive review of the 1989 Act, particularly in the context of the social and economic changes which have taken place since its introduction. As the Deputy will be aware the commitment to review the Act is also underpinned in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.
The in-depth review is being carried out by a sub-committee of the board of the authority. I have been informed by the authority that the review is now nearing completion and I look forward to receiving the outcome and findings of the review in the immediate future. This will enable my officials and I to develop legislative proposals to amend, strengthen and update our statutory health and safety provisions, where deemed necessary.
While I anticipate that the areas of offences and penalties will, amongst other areas, have been fully examined in the context of the above review, it would be premature at this stage to speculate on what specific legislative proposals will be developed.