Written Answers. - Workplace Safety.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

97 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps being taken to reduce the level of workplace accidents, especially having regard to reports that such accidents are contributing to an increase of up to 40% in insurance premia for small to medium sized companies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7115/01]

While I am aware that employer liability premiums will be increasing this year, my understanding is that these increases are necessitated by a number of factors, including the increasing cost of settling claims. Insurers have cited, in particular, increases in health care costs, as medical treatment becomes more sophisticated.

In relation to reducing the level of workplace accidents, there are a number of actions and initiatives being taken with a view to encouraging safer working practices, reducing the incidences of workplace accidents, and the accompanying costs to both workers and employers.

One important initiative is the workplace safety initiative. This initiative is supported and promoted by the ICTU, IBEC, the Health and Safety Authority, my Department and the Irish Insurance Federation. Under this initiative a voluntary code on safe working and accident prevention has been developed. Many companies have already adopted the voluntary code as proposed under this initiative.

The Health and Safety Authority, which is the State body with responsibility for the administration of workplace health and safety legislation, promotes and enforces good standards in workplace safety across all sectors. Working with employer and employee representatives, it seeks to ensure those in control of workplaces adopt safe working practices, as required by law. Advice and assistance is available from the authority's headquarters and regional offices.
The Health and Safety Authority, in its broadly-based programme of work for 2001, has set itself a target of 14,300 workplace inspections in all sectors with a particular focus on high risk sectors such as agriculture and construction, and on problem areas including manual handling, workplace vehicles and working at heights. In addition, the authority plans an extensive campaign of promotional activities which will build on the awareness-raising initiative undertaken in 2000, aimed not only at informing the public of the major health and safety issues but also of the practical actions that must be taken to ensure a safer working environment.
In the area of business support and education, the authority's aim for 2001 is to support small and medium enterprises and safety representatives to enable them to proactively deal with safety and health issues and improve workplace safety and health performance, and to place safety and health on the curriculum at all levels in the education system.
The authority also aims to work with Departments and public bodies to ensure that good workplace safety and health is maintained in their areas and is on their agenda.