Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004: Second Stage.

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

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004 seeks to modernise health and safety laws. It is significant legislation which affirms the Government's commitment to upholding the protection of workers. The Bill updates and amends the provisions of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, which was steered through the Oireachtas by the Taoiseach when he was Minister for Labour.

The Bill aims to consolidate safety, health and welfare primary legislation into one statute and includes provisions of Framework Directive 89/391 on safety and health and the directive on fixed term and temporary employees. The primary focus of the legislation is on prevention. It also provides for significant increased fines and penalties to deter the minority who flout health and safety laws. It includes a scheme for on-the-spot fines through regulations and provides that directors and managers can be held liable if complicit in deaths and accidents.

Taken with the Personal Injuries Assessment Board legislation, the Bill sets the scene for both prevention and compensation and will have beneficial effects on the economy, workers and employers. It includes additional new duties on employers and employees and strikes a balance between the interests of both groups. The Bill also provides for protection for employees against penalisation for exercising safety and health rights or duties, considerably strengthens safety consultation and safety representatives and recognises safety committees.

The Bill proposes to change the name of the National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health to the Health and Safety Authority, the name by which it is, in any event,de facto known. It also updates the rules on corporate governance in the authority.

I gave a commitment in the Dáil to commission an assessment of the impact of the legislation on competitiveness. Initial proposals were submitted to the Department at the end of last month by several economic consultants and we hope to be in a position to appoint someone to conduct this research in the near future.

Inspired by the tripartite commission of inquiry chaired by Mr. Justice Barrington, the 1989 Act applied safety and health laws for the first time to all employment. The latest figures from the Health and Safety Authority show that 50 people died arising from work activities in 2004. Although this constitutes a reduction of more than 25% in the rate of deaths at work since 1989, the figure remains unacceptable. The authority's figures for 2004 for non-fatal accidents at work show that the main cause of injury, accounting for almost one third of all such accidents, is manual handling which includes lifting or carrying, with loss of control of animals or machinery, at slightly more than 20%, accounting for the second highest number of non-fatal accidents.

In 2002, the latest year for which figures are available from the Central Statistics Office, the national estimate is that 117,800 people suffered injury at work or occupational illness arising from work activities. This resulted in the loss of 3.16 million work days among those in employment compared, for example, with 21,000 days lost to industrial disputes in 2002. Days lost to industrial accidents and illness in 2002 alone exceeded those lost through industrial dispute over the previous ten years. Between 1999 and 2002 the rate of injury and illness among those employed decreased by 15%, despite the growth in employment. Nevertheless, the human cost arising from death, pain and suffering undoubtedly makes the case for ensuring our social legislation in this area is relevant to changing conditions of work. Slightly more than 2 million people are employed compared to 1.2 million in 1989 when the original Bill was passed.

Injuries at work create costs for the economy, including direct costs to State health services, social insurance and costs to employers such as insurance. Injuries and ill health cost the economy approximately €1.6 billion per annum. Given that the absence of a key worker may have serious consequences for a small company and its workers, measures to reduce accidents and illnesses make good economic and business sense.

Safety and health policy is influenced by developments in the European Union such as the introduction of the framework directive of 1989 and a range of other directives. Ireland played a part in negotiating the principles at work in these directives. Since the introduction of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, many of the stakeholders have contributed and taken initiatives to underpin its success. Employer and trade unions bodies as well as the professional and education and training bodies have given it much support, as have non-governmental organisations such as the National Irish Safety Organisation. The Health and Safety Authority has also done a good job.

The Bill is a framework which focuses on broad general duties and the organisational and structural arrangements necessary to improve safety and health. The detail in many instances will continue to be included in regulations.

The Bill is organised in eight parts and seven Sschedules. Part 1 deals with preliminary and general matters and includes some important new definitions such as "competent person". It provides the basis for the repeal of older health and safety statutes, depending on review and possible replacement with regulations. It also provides limited exemptions as regards prisons and the Defence Forces and applies health and safety laws to self-employed persons.

Part 2 sets out a range of general duties on various stakeholders. It repeats the 1989 Act duties and requires employers to manage and conduct work activities so as to ensure safety, health and welfare and prevent any improper conduct or behaviour likely to endanger safety, health or welfare. Employers must also determine and implement the necessary safety, health and welfare measures, having identified hazards and carried out a risk assessment or when preparing a safety statement. In addition, they must report accidents and dangerous occurrences to the authority.

In compliance with Framework Directive 89/391, a number of sections elaborate on the requirements as regards information to be given to employees; the instruction, training and the supervision of employees as regards safety and health; and dealing with emergencies and serious and imminent dangers.

Chapter 2 of Part 2 sets out a number of general duties of employees and persons in control of places of work such as landlords. It imposes new requirements on employees which oblige them not to be under the influence of intoxicants to the extent that they put their safety or that of others in danger and to submit to tests for intoxicants if this is set out in regulations. I gave a commitment in the Dáil to bring a draft of these regulations before the Committee on Enterprise and Small Business and will do so as soon as it becomes available and following wide-ranging consultation.

Employees must also, if required by the employer or set out in regulations, undergo safety and health training and assessment. In addition, those seeking employment must not misrepresent themselves as having undergone training as may be required under regulations.

Chapter 3 of Part 2 places duties on several other stakeholders, including persons involved in construction work, specifically those who commission or procure construction work, design such work or carry it out. This provision will underpin the regulations which implement the EU directive on construction. Given that construction continues to be a high risk sector which accounts for a disproportionate number of accidents and deaths, it is appropriate to place special emphasis on the construction industry.

Part 3 places a special emphasis on protective and preventive measures and sets out the methodologies to be applied to reduce accidents and ill health at work. This is an important element of the Bill given that there will be a strong focus on prevention in future. Employers must identify hazards and assess the risks presented by any hazards in the place of work. Having done so, every employer must prepare a safety statement which also sets out the protective and preventive measures necessary.

The Bill provides for regulations which can require employers who contract for services with another employer to check that the service supplier has an up-to-date safety statement. Regulations will be likely to focus on large organisations, including those in the public sector which buy in services extensively.

Recognising the practical difficulties faced by many small employers in meeting the safety statement requirements, the Bill provides a basis whereby employers employing three persons or fewer can comply with the safety statement if they meet the requirements of a code of practice published by the Health and Safety Authority. Guidelines have already been published covering several low risk employment sectors.

Surveys conducted by the Health and Safety Authority in 2003 reveal that while 90% of companies employing 50 or more people had a safety statement, the figure fell to 56% in companies employing fewer than 50 people. The safety statement is the management tool for managing safety and health at work. Employers also have a duty to co-operate with each other when they share a workplace.

Health surveillance must be made available to workers by employers based on Framework Directive 89/391. Regulations can also be made requiring workers whose work presents critical risks to the safety and health of others to undergo an assessment by a doctor as regards fitness to carry out the work. Full consultation with employers, unions and other interests will take place before any such regulations are made to apply to particular work activities.

Part 3 includes an important new provision enabling employer organisations and trade unions to enter into joint safety and health agreements which will be recognised by the Health and Safety Authority. This will support agreements emerging under the social dialogue arrangements in the European Union.

Part 4 refers to consultations on worker health and safety and remains central to reducing accidents and illnesses at work. The first section in Part 4 is devoted to safety representatives, who need additional support in their challenging role. Several new provisions are included both here and throughout the Bill to strengthen the roles. Surveys conducted by the Health and Safety Authority in 2003 showed that in 74% of companies employing 50 or more people, workers had appointed safety representatives. In companies employing up to 15 workers, however, this fell to 15%.

Part 3 also re-enacts provisions on the consultation of workers and important new provisions whereby an employer cannot penalise an employee for acting in good faith in the interests of safety and health. An employee can make a complaint about penalisation to a rights commissioner who can direct the employer to take a specific course of action or to pay compensation. A decision of a rights commissioner can be appealed to the Labour Court and a determination of the Labour Court can be enforced in the Circuit Court.

Part 5 is devoted in two chapters to the Health and Safety Authority. The authority is to be renamed, there is provision for the establishment of subsidiaries, the board's membership is to increase from 11 to 12 persons and there are provisions on corporate governance arrangements for both board and staff. Chapter 2 of Part 5 covers staff matters within the authority.

Part 6 deals with legislative matters and enforcement. Chapter 1 covers the making of regulations and codes of practice and chapter 2 covers the appointment of inspectors by the authority and their enforcement powers, including the service of notices and applications for High Court orders closing down unsafe places of work. There is also a new provision whereby a person on whom a notice is served must bring it to the attention of any person affected and must also display the notice in a prominent place at the place of work. Latest figures show that the authority has sought nine High Court orders to date.

Part 7 covers offences and penalties. The Bill strikes a balance between encouraging the prevention of accidents and ill health at work, through structures and mechanisms such as the safety statement and safety consultation, offences and penalty provisions to deal with the few that insist on flouting health and safety laws.

There are two categories of offences. The first applies to less serious matters and the second covers all of the more serious offences under health and safety laws. The first category can be prosecuted in the District Court with a fine of up to €3,000. In the second category, on summary conviction in the District Court, a fine of €3,000 or imprisonment of up to six months or both can apply. On conviction on indictment in cases taken by the DPP with the support of the authority, the maximum fine is €3 million or imprisonment for up to two years or both. On-the-spot fines can also be introduced through regulations, not to exceed €1,000.

Company directors and managers carry significant social responsibility to protect safety and health. A provision in the 1989 Act has been highlighted in the Bill. Already directors and managers have been prosecuted. The Bill will alert directors and managers to their responsibilities and focus their minds on compliance and on engaging competent persons where necessary to advise them. Corporate manslaughter is another issue and the Government awaits the report of the Law Reform Commission.

Part 8 covers several miscellaneous matters. The opportunity is being taken in the Bill to amend the National Standards Authority of Ireland Act 1996 to rectify a legal deficiency that is preventing the Director of Consumer Affairs from enforcing a number of product safety orders, mainly made under the Industrial Research and Standards Act 1961.

There are seven schedules to the Bill. Schedule 1 lists associated statutory provisions upon which the authority can comment. Schedule 2 lists remaining health and safety statutes and regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972. Schedule 3 sets out the general principles of prevention based on the EU framework directive on safety and health. Schedule 4 sets down conditions attaching to safety committees. Schedule 5 deals with appointments to and procedures for the board of the authority. Schedule 6 deals with the appointment and functions of the chief executive of the authority and Schedule 7 lists matters which can be covered in regulations.

This Bill provides a framework for prevention for the foreseeable future. I look forward to debating it with Senators on Committee Stage. The Health and Safety Authority will be committed to ensuring the highest possible standards of compliance. The system must be underpinned by competent safety representatives and safety practitioners and upheld by the highest standards. This will give greater ownership of the system to employees and employers. Companies developing corporate social responsibility will develop workplace performance indicators on absenteeism, accidents and ill health, complaints and compliance, and training and development.

Incentives are important and the insurance industry, as a major stakeholder, should look at health and safety performance as a criterion in the selection of sub-contractors and in the marketing of products. New risks need attention, including psycho-social problems, and it is critical to re-energise this sector.

I look forward to hearing Senators' comments and to a stronger health and safety regime.

This Bill comes against the backdrop of the Health and Safety Authority report which shows that in 2002, 61 people lost their lives in workplace accidents, almost 8,000 workplace injuries resulted in a loss of four or more working days and there were a stunning 13,000 claims for occupational benefit.

Fine Gael recognises that this Bill is an honest attempt to deal with that dreadful set of statistics which, although improving in recent years, remains far too high. There is much to be said for this Bill; no one opposes safety, health and welfare. My party will gladly support it on Second Stage with a view to a thorough debate on Committee Stage. A thorough debate is what is needed because many of the clauses may have the opposite effect from improving safety and welfare.

The Bill seeks to update the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989. Fine Gael, IBEC, SIPTU, the ICTU and everyone involved in industrial relations recognise it is appropriate. Ireland's industrial landscape has changed beyond recognition, the number in work has multiplied and new technology has revolutionised workplace practices. Where once we exported workers we are now the beneficiaries of net immigration. With industries like construction and pharmaceuticals booming like never before, and like nowhere else in the world, we need an updated code of practice to prevent the injuries and deaths which continue to blight Ireland Incorporated.

The 1989 Act was a workable and practical framework that has been relatively successful in its aim. It injected a culture of safety and compliance that was badly needed, especially in the 1990s when the economy took off and an unregulated industrial sector could have spelt disaster for workers, business and Ireland's economic reputation. The danger with this Bill, however, is that in the rush to tighten areas that need to be tightened, the Government might be too prescriptive and inflexible. It is, perhaps without us realising it, replacing a framework for safety with a strict set of rules which are difficult to adhere to and easy to break.

Juxtaposed against those rules is a total absence of any policing strategy that would ensure these rules are not bent or broken together with total silence on the issue of funding. How much in extra resources will the Heath and Safety Authority receive upon enactment of this legislation? I ask the Minister of State to avoid statements of intent because, as we see from the Department of Foreign Affairs, promises equate with aspirations so aspirations must equate with barely nothing in his Government's view.

SIPTU has expressed its concerns in this area. If the new legislation is to have any chance of achieving its aim of reducing workplace injuries and deaths, the HSA must be properly funded. Instead of improving the resources which the authority needs to carry out its functions, they have been steadily reduced. In the construction industry, for example, out of a target of 8,000 building sites due for inspection by the HSA every year, the figure has been reduced to 4,500. With the increased number of inspectors pursuing cases through the courts, as a result of pressure from unions, their presence on building sites has fallen. This is not good enough. There is real concern that the benefits of this Bill will not be felt; nobody will adhere to it because there will be next to nobody to police it.

I do not intend to go through the Bill with a fine tooth comb. There is much to be welcomed, but much to be ironed out as well. I would, however, bring a number of issues to the attention of the House.

Section 18(4) is an example of the Bill's overly prescriptive nature. It states:

Where there is a competent person in the employer's employment, that person shall be appointed for the purposes of this section in preference to a competent person who is not in his or her employment...

While it may be a mistake, an oversight or it may be deliberate, one wonders why the Government has decided to interfere in companies' internal human resources processes. Similarly, by the time the Bill reached this House, it surely should have been possible to placate the trade unions on the issue of checking employees for evidence of intoxication while handling dangerous machinery. While there is a civil liberties aspect to this, the Fine Gael Party does not contend this argument should take precedence over the need for safety. However, adequate assurances must be given to workers on this matter, which has not yet happened.

This leads to only one conclusion. There has, it seems, been a lack of adequate consultation with employers and trade unions on this important Bill. No Bill, no matter what its content, can hope to succeed without the presence of good will on the part of those affected by it. That is not to say the Government must cave into the demands of vested interests. However, the media briefing, spin and counter-spin from various groups would have been avoided had the Department taken on board the views, concerns and expertise of those in the know.

Section 8 sets out the general duties of employers with the overriding duty of ensuring, as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees. Employers are, therefore, obliged to exercise all due care by putting in place the necessary protective and preventative measures, having identified the hazards and assessed risks to health and safety. However, an employer does not have to put in place any measures that are grossly disproportionate, having regard to the unusual, unforeseeable and exceptional nature of any circumstances or occurrence that may result in an injury or accident at work. This is fair and reasonable.

However, it is not fair and reasonable in the case of an employer obtaining staff through an agency where he or she must specify the occupational qualifications necessary for the positions as well as the specific features for which the employee is required. The employer is also obliged to ensure the agency provides this information to the temporary employee. If an employer retains an agency to recruit temporary staff, it is arguably unreasonable for an employer to ensure the agency carries out its statutory duties under the Bill. Why should the employer be held liable for a third party?

Section 10 has been drafted in such a way as to render it almost meaningless. It states instruction, training and supervision is to be given to staff and the employer must take account of an employee's capabilities regarding health, safety and welfare. Does this mean an employee is to be permitted to refuse to work simply because he or she claims it is detrimental to his or her welfare?

There are many good reasons to cheer this Bill. However, those cheering may consider the onus it puts on businesses. Fine Gael has no objection to this in principle. Safety is costly and businesses must pay their fair share. However, has the Government calculated the fair share? While I appreciate there are some very profitable large-scale industrial players who can absorb these costs, what of small businesses? Is there a danger of imposing unnecessary and restrictive regulations on small and medium-sized enterprises which are already regulated into the ground?

The Chambers of Commerce of Ireland launched a blistering attack on how small and medium-sized enterprises have been abandoned by the Government regarding the funding of local authorities. If the Government is priming itself for another fight with the small business sector, may I advise against it? Ultimately, if proper consultation is engaged in, the legislation will be better. I, therefore, advise the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Killeen, to listen carefully to what IBEC, ICTU and others have to say on this Bill and reflect that on Committee Stage. He is a reasonable man and I have no doubt he is listening to these concerns.

This is not a Dickensian call for the scrapping of business owners' responsibility in this area. It is imperative for the State to make crystal clear what it expects from those who make profits from their workers. As the saying goes, one may profit from the sweat of one's employees, but not their blood. My main concern with this Bill is that some provisions impose needless rules. It has been brought to my attention that the Bill may compel an employer to display improvement notices on every vehicle he or she owns, while impeding the implementation of certain safety measures. Section 26 confusingly states employers must consult with employees on such measures. If something is not safe, it is not safe; consultation sounds like a recipe for dither and delay to me.

While the Bill is flawed in many respects, it is fundamentally sound. I look forward to Committee Stage when I hope the Minister of State will listen to and take on board our concerns.

I welcome the Minister of State and his officials to the House. I commend them on the drafting of the Bill and I wish it a speedy passage through the House. There is an urgency in this area and the longer legislation is delayed, the more people are not protected by it.

The Bill provides the legal basis to ensure Ireland has the most up-to-date approach to health and safety at work in Europe. It will introduce new liabilities for directors and senior managers, resulting in the considerable tightening of health and safety at work environment. It strikes a balance between imposing duties, encouraging better consultation, providing better prevention and increasing fines and penalties. Up to 85% of employers have fewer than ten employees. Regrettably, high levels of workplace accidents happen in these microenterprises.

The Bill provides some relief for smaller organisations that may have experienced difficulties putting together a safety statement due to lack of resources or expertise. The Health and Safety Authority will provide special codes of practice for specific industries. An organisation with three or less employees will now meet the safety statement requirement by adhering to the code relevant to their industry.

There are over 200,000 workplaces in the State. To date in 2005, 23 people have been killed in work-related accidents, making it the worst start to a year in this decade. While agriculture accounts for 9% of total gainful employment, 33% of workplace fatalities occur in the sector. I am concerned that lessons have not been learnt and people are dying needlessly, simply because proper measures have not been taken to ensure safety in the workplace. It is not acceptable that a worker could lose his or her life by simply doing a job. The Bill ensures the necessary steps are taken to make workplace accidents a thing of the past.

Safety statements and risk assessments, however, only add value if they become working documents for all employees and management. Breaches of the legislation will incur on-the-spot fines, the provision of maximum fines of up to €3 million and terms of imprisonment of up to two years. Company directors and managers may be held liable in circumstances where they are found to have contributed to any offence and may be prosecuted. Employees will be guilty of an offence if they report for work in an intoxicated condition or under the influence of drugs. They may be subject to testing by their employers to ensure compliance. While it does give rise to concerns regarding individual privacy, it must be remembered that lives may be at stake.

The farm is one of the most dangerous workplace environments. Coming from County Clare, the Minister of State will have considerable knowledge of farming. For example, two Members of the Lower House have experienced accidents on their farms. Even when people act responsibly, there are great dangers. Everyone must be particularly careful when dealing with animals. As a result of modern farming methods, there is less handling of animals than in the past. Single suckler cows which have never been handled or fed directly by an individual are a much wilder breed than in the past and must be handled with great care. Even when domesticated, they are basically wild animals, and very powerful. The farming community must be very careful with regard to farm safety.

Many farmers know that when calving, a cow can be particularly dangerous and can turn on people. People have died needlessly because they felt they were safe in such an environment. I commend the farming organisations, which have worked closely with the Minister of State, along with the Health and Safety Authority, in this regard. Compliance with the safety statement prepared and circulated is not great. A reminder is better than a prosecution. Persuasion and encouragement are important through the national organisations, the Department and the health and safety organisations.

Such persuasion would be more effective at this stage in getting people to review their farm working arrangements, particularly with regard to slurry tanks. Thankfully, people are now more conscious of the toxins and gases the tanks emit. Many more people died as a result of those than do now. People are becoming more careful. Open slurry tanks are less prevalent than they were, yet they claim many lives, with young children in particular dying needlessly. There are also safety issues involving tractors and other farm equipment. The situation of children coming up behind farm machinery occurs far too regularly. The fact that the Minister of State is promoting this Bill and highlighting the safety issue will save lives.

It is extraordinary to think that an estimated 117,800 people suffered injury at work or occupational illnesses arising from work activities, resulting in the loss of 3.1 million work days. That is an extraordinary figure. We currently have 2 million employed, which is also a staggering figure. This Bill is particularly important now because of the number of people at work, compared with 1.2 million in 1989. That is a phenomenal increase in employment and is a credit to this Government, whose work resulted in the increase of more than 1,000 people per week at work over the past ten years. Since Fianna Fáil came back into Government, there has been a phenomenal increase in the numbers employed.

It is important that we couple the legislation before the House today with the fact that this Government has created jobs. The Minister of State is promoting this Bill in order to give protection to those employed to ensure they are safe at work.

A building site is probably one of the most dangerous places for employees. More stringent precautions than heretofore have been taken in the area. I was involved with the building industry before being elected to this House and used to visit building sites. If a building site is not well controlled and managed, there is nowhere more dangerous. Over the years, I commended contractors for their neatness on a job. In the past, a serious problem involved workers walking on rusty six-inch nails sticking out of planks. The footwear used by workers was not adequate to protect them from this danger. Greater precautions are now taken in this regard. Young builders are much more conscious of safety. They all wear hard hats on site and do not allow anyone on site without proper equipment. Appropriate signs are now erected on most building sites, and protective railings surround those sites. All this helps to reduce the number of fatalities in the building industry.

All industries have risks and they must all comply with this legislation. A great deal of consultation has rightly taken place because one must have the goodwill of all the organisations representing workers, unions and employers to ensure this Bill works well. Those consultations are now complete. The survey conducted by the Health and Safety Authority in 2003 revealed that while 90% of companies which employed 50 or more people had a safety statement, this fell to 50% in companies employing up to 50 people. The safety statement is the management tool for managing safety and health at work.

The Minister of State may clarify this on Second Stage but I understand this document has been circulated to all Irish farms. There nevertheless remains the issue of managing this issue, or even locating the document on a farm and complying with it. Teagasc and the farming organisations could become more active in this regard. The documents were issued possibly a year ago and going by my experience, people read them and then lay them aside to be completed on a rainy day, which in many cases never comes, so the safety statements are not complied with. I ask the Minister of State to ensure that a reminder is sent to all to comply with the safety statement on farms.

This Bill has been flagged for some time. Many Ministers and Ministers of State in this Government have been involved in the drafting of the legislation, including the Taoiseach and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Deputy Fahey was also involved at one stage. It is now the responsibility of the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, to see this Bill through the Oireachtas and he has the capacity to ensure it becomes law very quickly.

Since 1989 onwards, many Ministers and Ministers of State have brought forward legislation in this area. They include the Taoiseach, Deputy Cowen, Senator O'Rourke and Deputies Fitzgerald, Kitt and Fahey. All had an input in this regard. I compliment all the Ministers and Ministers of State involved. They have all taken their roles seriously. This Bill is the culmination of their work and that of the various organisations. I thank the Minister of State for bringing the Bill before us and I thank his senior officials for being present to guide us in bringing the Bill through the House.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. As an employer for many years, this legislation highlights how complacent we can become. Over the years, when one heard of many farmers killed in accidents, and of building site fatalities. one more or less thought it was part of the trade. We accepted that the building trade was dangerous. It is significant that we now have the Celtic tiger and the resources, and are thinking of health and safety at work. Sometimes it has taken European legislation to make us focus on the fact that we can make a difference.

I welcome the Bill. Prevention is better than cure, and the Bill is good for employers and employees. It strikes a balance. We recognise this Bill as a honest attempt to deal with the statistic which shows that in 2002, 61 people lost their lives in work-related accidents. Many people have been maimed when working in various industries. This legislation will be a help.

The main issue is resources. The Health and Safety Authority must have sufficient inspectors. We discovered with the Gama incident that there are not enough inspectors. There was a knee-jerk reaction to that. Sometimes I welcome such reactions. I often say that politicians do not act but react. We reacted to the serious situation of an alleged fraud against workers in Gama. Everybody has a knee-jerk reaction to loss of life or the maiming of people at work. Signs are immediately put up on the premises and helmets are worn, with people resolving to do better.

It is difficult to legislate for every eventuality and some jobs and professions are more dangerous than others. I have a newsagents shop, which is not a dangerous environment although machines must be cleaned and so forth.

It is a fine premises in Boyle.

Some Members of the House might come from agricultural backgrounds. They might work on the farm or be in the enjoyable position of having others do the work for them. Senator Leyden correctly highlighted the situation in agriculture where there have been many accidents resulting in the death or maiming of people, especially children. Are children included in the statistics for work-related accidents? They are not deemed to be workers and accidents affecting them might just be seen as unfortunate. Time and again one hears of children being killed on farms as a result of being on tractors or helping with various jobs on the farm.

The Chambers of Commerce of Ireland have launched a blistering attack on the Government for the way small and medium sized businesses have been abandoned with regard to funding for local authorities. I am a past president of Boyle Chamber of Commerce. We cannot put a price on safety for workers and employers. Employers tend to see the bottom line while employees see the issues that must be resolved. If something is not safe, the Government has a moral obligation to provide the right framework to deal with it.

This can be a difficult issue for employers. Business is all about the bottom line and economies of scale. It is difficult to implement the same health and safety procedures in a small business that employs nine or ten people as in a larger business such as Tesco. Has the Minister taken note that smaller businesses could be penalised? People will say one can claim expenses back through taxes and so forth but if one's bottom line is not strong it is difficult to claim back taxes. Smaller businesses might be put at a disadvantage. This is not to take away from the fact that safety must be a paramount concern.

Is an employee permitted to refuse to work simply because he or she claims it is detrimental to his or her welfare? When will the extra health and safety officers be recruited? It is little use introducing legislation if the proper procedures to implement it are not in place. My party supports this Bill and looks forward to a thorough debate on Committee Stage. We intend to table some amendments. They are not significant but they would benefit the Bill and assist in its implementation.

We have gone past the stage of accepting that loss of life can occur with some professions. We cannot accept that in any occupation. When the Bill is passed funding must be put in place to ensure the Bill's provisions are enforced and policed. In the 1970s and 1980s we tended to accept that loss of life and maiming was an occupational hazard when certain machines or tools were in use. I am glad we are trying to address this attitude. I look forward to a reasoned debate on the Bill.

I apologise to the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, for the fact that I was not present to hear his introductory remarks but I have read them. I was impressed by the figures he quoted for the number of work days lost as a result of injuries. He said 117,800 people were affected in 2002 resulting in a loss of 3.16 million working days. This problem, therefore, is of great significance not just for the people who are affected but also for the economy and the knock-on costs for the State in terms of health services and so forth. That is an important dimension of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill.

I welcome this legislation. The number of days lost as a result of strikes is far lower than the number lost as a result of injury. This underlines the scale of the problem. Furthermore, it is a problem that is not highlighted. Strikes get great attention but the effects of injury do not. There was some discussion this morning and yesterday on the Order of Business about the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. There was a general welcome for the fact that awards had been accepted and there had been a tenfold decrease in the legal costs associated with the awards. Hopefully, the board will have an active role to play in dealing with claims that might arise from work injuries.

The minimum expectation people have when they go to work is that they will be safe there and will return home safely. That applies equally to people who come to the relatively safe environment, physically, of the Houses of the Oireachtas and who work in more dangerous places such as farms, construction sites and quarries. Even those who work in dangerous environments, and I spent a good deal of my working life on a farm, tend to be quite blasé about injury. The more one becomes familiar with the job at hand, the more risks one tends to take. One might not even know there are risks.

However, we have left behind the days when people stood on the drawbar between the tractor and trailer. I can remember when there were no cabs on tractors. Many people were killed as a result of the tractors overturning. Happily we have moved on from there although we still have some way to go. As I said, the dangers depend a great deal on the place of work. We must accept that some workplaces are more dangerous than others and try to minimise the possibility of people getting injured whether it be in agriculture or on construction sites. Sea fishing is also a dangerous activity even in terms of the physical environment in which those people work.

Twenty three people were killed in work-related accidents in 2005, which is one of the worst starts to the year for a decade. That would appear to indicate that lessons are not being learned and that people are dying needlessly because the proper measures have not been taken into account, put in place or enforced. For that reason I welcome the Bill before us.

The Bill specifically sets out the duties of the employer and the employee in terms of compliance with the legislation. I welcome the acknowledgment that both the employer and the employee have responsibilities in regard to the safety of the workplace. New and increased penalties are being introduced for non-compliance, which is to be welcomed in light of the tragic statistics recorded to date this year.

There is more to this matter than just fines and penalties. It is important that there is a degree of ongoing employee consultation, which can have a positive and long lasting effect. It is critical that the employee be consulted in terms of health and safety at work and that there is a general level of co-operation and participation between the employer and employee. The Bill provides protection for employees from penalisation as a result of raising a concern regarding their health and safety at work. That is an important issue because people may feel vulnerable and fear they would be seen as troublemakers should they raise a concern, which could have a detrimental effect on their career well-being. Workers know their work environment better than anyone else and they should be the people to help to sort out any problems that may exist. It would be a most unwise employer who did not try to ensure that the needs and concerns of employees were taken into account.

The large multinational corporations we have happily attracted here have reached world class standards by recognising that the difference between a near miss and an injury or fatality is a millisecond or a millimetre. However, accidents still occur in these enlightened companies. I hasten to add that there are also enlightened domestic companies. Employees must be encouraged to highlight problems in the workplace without fear of penalties.

A central aspect of this matter is education. Perhaps some of the things that have happened in the past have been due to deficiencies in education. Experts have shown that moving to world class safety standards means moving beyond safety audits and physical interventions such as protective clothing, barriers, harnesses and so on to the achievement of best practice. The key to all of this is education. It is somewhat similar to road safety which we discussed in recent weeks. Individuals must take responsibility. Individual behaviour is a critical element in reducing accident rates both on the roads and in the workplace.

I welcome the requirement that every workplace must have a written safety statement which identifies its risks and hazards. That is one of the key elements of the enforcement side. It is easy to identify that there is a problem in a workplace if it does not have a safety statement. If that does not exist, it follows that other more important aspects may not be in place either. Employees must be educated and trained with specific regard to the workplace environment and to the associated hazards within the industry in which they work. Some work environments are dangerous by their very nature, such as farms and quarries, and special care must be taken in regard to these.

I spoke recently to a person who used to rent out chainsaws; he had to stop because people stated they would not use the safety equipment which he offered to them. He was in a difficult position and stopped renting out these machines because of his concern about people's lack of care. In some cases the people renting chainsaws gave them to employees to do the work which was obviously a serious situation.

The general provisions which include a €100 on-the-spot fine, increased fines and sentences, the naming and shaming by the HSA, testing for intoxicants, employers' duties, safety statements, codes of practice, safety representatives and prohibition notices are all to be welcomed. Enforcement is a crucial aspect of the legislation. We have had a raft of legislation in this area and others. It all comes down to how well it will be enforced; whether the resources will be invested to ensure that enforcement is carried out; and whether, when deficiencies are discovered, they will be pursued vigorously and rectified. It is difficult to enforce on-the-spot fines in this kind of environment.

Will initiatives be put in place to target problem sectors? Cowboy operators are a continuing problem. It is well known in the construction industry that companies disappear after working on a particular project. The same person will then form another company and so on which leads to a difficulty in establishing liability. Such companies often do not have resources. I am aware that company directors can be held responsible and that there is a degree of individual responsibility which is to be welcomed but a vigorous approach must be taken to cowboy operators who hold no assets and are probably not even tax compliant. They may not even register on Revenue's radar. These people are some of the biggest culprits in the area of health and safety and their sites appear to have the greatest potential for injuries and fatalities. When companies fold up and disappear, it is difficult to have legal redress if things go wrong. The shortage of craftspeople and tradespeople has encouraged those who are not qualified to set up as builders which leads to employers as well as consumers being left exposed.

The HSA's fatality figures show the same sectors are the worst offenders time and again. The construction industry tops the list this year along with agriculture. Nine people have been killed in the construction sector which is up from seven in the same period last year. Seven people died in the agriculture sector which is an increase on four in the first four months of 2004. It is unfortunate that these things happen but there is a dual responsibility on the worker and the employer. The protection against penalties for those who highlight problems is important. Other welcome measures relate to enforcement, education and the targeting of specific sectors and locations.

My next point does not come strictly within the terms of the Bill. I live in an area outside the town of Newbridge in which there has been significant housing development. One estate was built across the road from where I live. Every few weeks I had to pick up the litter that was generated there. I accept that building sites are messy places but what is not acceptable is construction site workers who park on the side of the road throwing their lunch wrappers out the windows of their vans. That happens all the time. Bottles, cans and papers are all left strewn about. I accept this is a matter for local authority litter wardens to enforce but something should be done about it.

Some companies move on to building sites and only put up health and safety signage weeks later. That is a matter on which the Health and Safety Authority must be active. In one case where a fatal accident took place, the company owner was fined in court. However, he immediately went to another site where it again took a long time before health and safety signage was erected. One would have thought he would learn what was required from his first experience. I telephoned him to inquire why his signs were not up.

If a farmer transports a load of beet, grain or silage, he has to clean up the road after him but construction companies appear to have impunity when it comes to leaving muck on the road. In my area there is mud from Athgarvan to Newbridge because of the carry-on of these people. If there is not mud, there is dust. I recall when the motorway was being constructed along the Newbridge bypass the mud and the dust was cleaned off every day. A contractor was employed on this at all times. However, these fellows seem to be able to carry on without let or hindrance. They leave the roads in a state of minimal repair and when they have cleared off it is up to the local authority, several months later, to put matters right. The State is picking up the tab and that is not acceptable. There are issues for the planning and local authorities with regard to litter. While I accept these are outside the scope of the Health and Safety Authority, perhaps it might have a quiet word to get them to ensure that some of these sites are at least maintained to an acceptable standard.

A balance must be struck in all of these matters, however. People must work, frequently in dangerous environments. If such environments are over-regulated or over-restricted, then the work itself and output is affected. Nonetheless, safety of the employee and of the public must be dominant in our thinking. For that reason, the Bill strikes the right balance and I am happy to support it.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, to the House to debate this important Bill. I compliment officials of his Department and the Health and Safety Authority for their outstanding work. As a former board member of the authority, I appreciate the outstanding work that its inspectorate and staff have done over several years. This includes seeing at first hand their work in ensuring that the rules as laid down are being complied with. Sometimes their work is difficult, for example, when they have to visit sites after fatal accidents, etc. At all times they deal with such events in a very professional manner.

We must recognise the improvements that have taken place. It is easy enough to highlight the number of fatalities. Even one fatality is one too much, but when one looks at the number of people currently at work as against ten or 15 years ago, and the amount of large machinery on building sites, I believe excellent work is being done to ensure health and safety issues are held to be of paramount importance.

There have been some improvements on building sites, where many accidents happen, but the need for maximum levels of safety must always be emphasised. One is always worried, on looking in on a building site, as to what one might find. There should always be pre-development preparation on a site. The location of electrical services, particularly those underground, should always be known. These should be marked on maps and available to a contractor when he or she moves on site. Once building starts on a site overhead cabling should be removed. In 90% of cases it has to be removed afterwards and ideally it should be taken away before construction or work on the site begins. Perhaps the HSA could agree with the local authority that this should be a prerequisite as regards planning.

Despite the improvements, there is still room for further change. In the case of noise levels, for example, the protection exists and is available, if used. Many companies are very good in dealing with eye and noise protection measures, improved safety, security gear, etc. This has to be welcomed. However, quite a number of people attend accident and emergency units in hospitals as a result of accidents on building sites. This cannot be lost sight of and must be improved on.

Other Members, including Senator Dardis, who has first-hand information in this area, referred to the issue of farm safety. This must be continuously reviewed. Farmers have made enormous improvements on their farmyards as regards power drives with simple plastic covers that only cost a few euro, etc. Such measures should be put in place to obviate or reduce the risk element from much of the machinery being worked on.

There is another area of concern, namely, the use of quad motors, on farms and in general. Action must be taken to deal with them. Quads are similar to a small four-wheel drive tractor but with no roller bar, which was compulsory even on very old tractors that could not do more than 5 mph. These quads are well capable of doing 30 mph or 40 mph. There is no protection whatever and they contribute to an enormous number of accidents. Last year, a prominent member of the Irish Farmers Association was seriously injured in such an accident and he is only one of many. I hope this will be reviewed without delay so that something may be done about it.

With regard to slurry on farms, the current topic is the use of open earthen bags. That is the last thing we want. We should ensure that slurry is gathered and controlled in properly covered concrete tanks. Farmers spent possibly 20 years in doing away with, and covering in, many of the old outside earthen tanks. That must be changed in the interests of security and safety on farms and as quickly as possible. While chainsaws are a useful item on a farm, in most cases they are used without any protection of any kind and are the cause of a very large number of accidents.

With regard to articulated lorries, something must be done about long loads which do not carry advance warnings, speed, safety chains and security loading. If a garda has to stop a truck of any type on the road on safety grounds an inspection of tyres, tax, insurance, weight, tachograph, licences and insurance will take up to two hours. That is too long. Despite some improvements, many of these vehicles leave much to be desired.

I also compliment the Health and Safety Authority on the improvements on which it has insisted and which have taken place at many stadiums around the country. Large numbers of people were gathering at such forums and there was a risk of major problems, and possible disasters. However, both the HSA and insurance companies have insisted that safety must be paramount in the development of many of the country's new stadiums. The cost of insurance claims following accidents, whether they occur on a farm or elsewhere, is passed on to consumers, who have difficulty paying their insurance premia.

The HSA inspectors have an enormous responsibility and they carry out their duties very well. I always appreciate their unannounced workplace visits because employers have a duty of care to ensure they adopt the best safety practices for their employees. Prevention is the way forward and the Minister of State and his officials are doing a good job in this regard. The importance of safety committees in the workplace must be recognised. Safety committees and safety officers work well. They adopt a hands-on approach to foresee problems before they develop and ensure all precautions are taken to make sure safety statements are in place and safety equipment is used. There is not much use in an employer providing safety wear if employees fail to use it for whatever reason.

I refer to the responsibility of local authorities to make dangerous buildings safe given that many accidents occur in them. The issue of dangerous buildings must be examined to make sure the HSA puts more pressure on local authorities to monitor these buildings in every town and villages. Many minor accidents occur in them which result in many children getting hurt. Such buildings should be properly secured so they cannot be accessed by children.

Employers and employees should study the legislation and comply with all its provisions. Significant improvements are provided in the legislation. It is about time appropriate fines were introduced so that those who do not comply with the regulations are penalised. I do not know whether the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Health and Safety Authority is responsible for monitoring motorists and other road users whose vehicles break down. All road users should have illuminated vests in case of a breakdown. It should be made compulsory. I thank the Minister of State for introducing the legislation and I wish him and his officials well with it. I appeal to all employers to take extra steps to ensure our workplaces are safer for employees.

Seo an chéad deis agam tréaslú leis an Aire Stáit as ucht a cheapacháin. Is dócha gur chuir cúrsaí moilliú ar an gceapachán ach tá sé tarlaithe agus is maith an rud é, go háirithe do mhuintir thuaisceart chondae an Chláir, áit sa tír a bhfuil bá agus ceangal agam féin léi. Go n-éirí leis.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute on this important legislation, which has been around for some time. While it is largely a consolidating Bill, nonetheless it contains important new initiatives, which my party welcomes and supports, not least, for example, the introduction of on-the-spot fines, which replace the cumbersome enforcement system in place. The statistics provided by the Minister of State are staggering. Approximately 117,000 people were injured at work in 2002 resulting in the loss of 3.16 million days compared with 21,000 days lost to industrial disputes. This gives the lie to the primary criticism by employers of legislation similar to this who say this is the nanny state introducing regulations for the sake of it, which impose unnecessary and unreasonable costs, particularly on small businesses.

The argument, however, is done down by those statistics, which make it crystal clear that the cost of injury and fatal accidents at work far outweighs the cost of implementing safety legislation which seeks to prevent such accidents. It costs employers through increased insurance premia and replacing employees who are out of work because they are sick, and it costs the State, which must pay occupational benefit. All these costs are preventible if accidents are prevented and that is the primary thrust of legislation such as this.

Employers who make the case that the legislation is a waste of money or that unnecessary regulation is being imposed on them are extremely short sighted in their analysis not only from the point of view of the State and employees, but also from their own point of view. It will cost them more in the long run if they do not observe and embrace the legislation's provisions.

There is broad agreement between the social partners regarding the measures that consolidate the 1989 Act and subsequent directives and regulations and that is how these issues should be progressed. It is important that there should be co-operation not only on a national level between IBEC and ICTU, but also on an individual industry and enterprise level where the workforce and employers can work together to ensure a safe working environment.

The legislation provides for a framework within enterprises where this can be done. IBEC has been slow to embrace this framework saying it should be a legislative matter and not an industrial relations matter. IBEC is again taking a short-sighted view. If these issues can be progressed through co-operation and agreement within a workplace, provided that does not involve cutting corners and observes regulations and high standards, that must be the way forward. If that means, for example, that in the construction industry, the CIF is obliged to sit down with the various trade unions that represent workers within the industry and reaches an agreement on how the framework can be implemented and enforced, so much the better. That must be good for all concerned and I very much welcome that approach.

The HSA will remain the primary body responsible for enforcement. The debate reflects the thinking that underlay the debate on the treatment of migrant workers last week. It is great, important and necessary to have a legal framework but enforcement is needed. Regrettably, however strong the regulations may be and however much we increase fines and provide for deterrents, some employers will not observe them. We must be in a position to ensure inspectors are available to enforce the regulations. I understand approximately 160 people work in the HSA. I know the Minister of State was influential in ensuring that number was retained but there is a clear need to increase the number of inspectors available as although they currently number approximately 100, not all of them are available for on-site inspections at any given time.

That figure dates back to a time when the workforce in this country was 1.1 million or 1.2 million but it is now 1.9 million and heading for 2 million, which is an increase of approximately 40% in the past ten years. The number of inspectors available to the HSA has not increased at all or has been increased by a very small number.

In industries that are particularly susceptible to accidents at work, employment has increased even more. We have been remarkably successful in attracting and developing clusters of chemical industries, as we sought to do. With that come the challenges which accompany the chemicals industry, by definition an industry which involves handling and dealing with hazardous substances and waste.

It is important that we are in a position not only to implement EU directives but also to enforce them. The REACH directive is still awaiting implementation. That will be a serious challenge for the HSA because it requires a level of expertise and manpower it does not currently have. We must acknowledge that the success in attracting the multinational chemical industry to this country comes with a new challenge to health and safety at work which requires additional resources to be made available to the HSA.

The extraordinary increase in the construction industry workforce in recent years provides another challenge. I was astonished to read the second most recent Central Bank report which pointed out that approximately 12% of the entire workforce is in the construction industry, which means that approximately one in eight people in this country are directly or indirectly linked to the construction industry.

The Minister of State is aware that in the early and mid-1990s many corners were cut by small and large enterprises in the construction industry in this country. My father-in-law is a retired small builder in north Clare and he is not short of stories about competitors undercutting their opposition by not paying attention to issues such as health and safety at work. Similar stories and anecdotes are common throughout the country and most of us would have no difficulty in finding one.

Through its advertising campaigns and inspections, the HSA has managed to impress on some operators that this is not the way forward and that there is a cost involved. However, some horrific accidents have occurred — thankfully there are fewer now than there were five years ago — which clearly illustrate the need to continue with those campaigns and inspections.

It is not just small builders that are involved. One or two big companies that were very active in Dublin in the mid-1990s — most people will know to whom I am referring — specialised in building ramshackle structures cheaply and quickly. One of the costs of that was in terms of health and safety and some horrific accidents occurred that attracted significant public attention and action from both trade unions in the industry and the HSA. Unfortunately that was not before lives were lost.

I wish to comment on certain specific provisions of the Bill and I hope my information is not out of date. On Committee Stage the Minister of State was reluctant to change the provision that gives power to employers in reasonable circumstances to oblige an employee to take a test for intoxicants. I confess to being in two minds on this issue. It is self-evident that in an industry where a person's safety depends on others, it is important that employees are certain their colleagues are not under the influence of drink or drugs. However, in most cases it would be evident if someone was under such an influence and the current situation is that the employer would send that person home.

I am concerned that the introduction of mandatory testing is unquestionably an issue of intrusion into an individual's privacy and rights. I know the Minister of State has stated that he is reasonable and that there will be no difficulties in complying with the regulations he will introduce, but not everyone in his party or in other parties is as reasonable as he is and we cannot be sure how regulations might be interpreted in the future. Perhaps we will get an opportunity to discuss this further.

I was struck by what Senator Moylan said about public events because some high-profile fatal accidents have occurred in recent months and years at such events. Strictly speaking public events do not constitute a workplace and so do not come within the ambit of the Department or this Bill, but nonetheless there is a need to examine the concept of imposing standards on public events, such as where two non-professional sporting clubs play each other or where people or children play in a ground run by a voluntary sporting club. We must find a mechanism of implementing standards in terms of equipment and buildings in such places that fall outside the context of the workplace. We can examine this on Committee Stage.

The issue of corporate manslaughter has been raised by the trade union movement in recent years. The Law Reform Commission was asked to examine this issue and it recommended that in certain extreme circumstances a charge of corporate manslaughter would be appropriate. This Bill represents the time to introduce it into legislation. Nobody expects such charges would be brought easily or regularly, but circumstances have attracted public attention where the level of reckless neglect in a particular company is such that, in my view and that of the Law Reform Commission, it would have justified such a charge as corporate manslaughter. The Minister of State should re-examine introducing such an offence in the context of this Bill.

We must give some time to the issue of the public sector. Examining some literature before today's debate, I was struck by the extent to which the public sector has been found to be neglectful of its duties. It suits those of us who choose to examine issues from an employee point of view to consider that this is about neglectful or unscrupulous employers, but the State has not been a shining star in this matter, and there have been many incidents where it failed to ensure the safety of people working for State institutions or the public service.

In his speech on Second Stage in the Dáil, the Minister of State pointed out that violence in the workplace is now a real issue in terms of people's interaction with the public service. Recent controversy about accident and emergency departments is a perfect example. This issue requires a specific response from us. It falls within the ambit of this Bill but perhaps needs to spelt out in more detail.

My party welcomes and supports this Bill and I look forward to teasing out the issues in more detail on Committee Stage.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill, particularly as it is the first opportunity for the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Killeen, to bring legislation through the House. I am delighted Deputy Killeen, from County Clare, is here with such important legislation and I compliment him on his input to the Bill. As Senator McDowell stated the legislation has been around for quite some time and there is no doubt Deputy Killeen's stamp is on it. It is part of a range of measures designed to protect workers, which is something the Minister of State has been to the fore in doing.

I compliment the Minister of State for his recent increasing of the minimum wage on foot of recommendations but against the advice of some employer groups. I was surprised by some of the comments on the decision, especially those of IBEC and the SFA. One would have been forgiven for thinking they would not have objected to it, but they did. I was especially surprised by the reaction of the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland given that the money earned by employees on the minimum wage is generally circulated in local communities within a very short period of time. It was very short-sighted of the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland membership to take so negative a view and to mount so personal an attack on the Minister of State. Some outrageous and reprehensible comments were made by the director general of the organisation which showed little understanding of the socially progressive regulation being brought forward. The Minister of State deserves the full credit of the House for his decision.

There is no doubt that real health and safety problems need to be addressed. The Bill deals very well with them. There has been a great deal of talk today about building sites and Members are familiar with the kind of circumstances which can develop on them. Many Members have worked on building sites and seen significant changes take place since the late 1980s. Senator McDowell referred to his father-in-law who has a small building business in north Clare and spoke about practices in the industry in the 1980s and early 1990s. I contend that such practices were the result of a desire to cut corners and expenses due to the inability of the economy to meet the costs associated with certain safety measures. Unfortunately, the negative practices which have developed recently are based on the greed associated with the Celtic tiger and the desire of unscrupulous operators to fast-track jobs and move on to the next site to reap even greater rewards. Such practices must be stamped out.

In a buoyant economy and construction sector, it is only right to put in place the necessary safety measures to protect those who work on building sites. A by-product of the slipshod approach to health and safety on building sites is a general ethos of untidiness and sloppy work. We will all suffer in the long term as a result. While quality control is not directly addressed in the Bill, people who take a slipshod approach to health and safety also take a slipshod approach to the quality of their work. It is regrettable that poor quality work is taking place on building sites with all that implies for the life expectancy of many of the properties currently being constructed. Tradesmen no longer take the level of pride in their work they once did, but are only interested in getting in and out of a site as quickly as possible to maximise profits.

A by-product of the Bill will be to address the problem of quality by ensuring that builders follow set procedures thereby creating an ethos of greater care and attention not only to health and safety but to the quality of the work they carry out. FÁS, which operates under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, runs the useful Safe Pass programme to provide basic knowledge of health and safety. There is potential to enhance what is currently a day course. The Minister of State should consider reviewing the course with the intention of establishing a pass-fail system rather accreditation based on attendance.

There have been comments on farm safety, which is of paramount importance. In his short time in office, the Minister of State has actively promoted greater safety on farms through the farm-safety week. The Minister of State's regular contact with farm unions and representative bodies in this context has been very welcome. Farm practices have changed over the years. Most Members will remember days on which they travelled from the bog on top of a load of turf. Sadly, while tractors can transport loads at greater speeds, their increased size means it is more difficult to see people around them. Some of the tractors one sees now bear little resemblance to the tractors of 25 to 30 years ago. Front wheels are now larger than the back ones, which is the reverse of how we used to understand a tractor to be constructed.

The sophisticated nature of modern machinery makes it especially important to take children and minors out of the equation and away from the farmyard. It is disappointing to continue regularly to see farmers travelling in tractors with young children and dogs. It compromises the farmer's visibility and the safety of those within and without the machine. It is a matter which must be addressed.

Senator Moylan referred to proposals to deal with sewerage under the nitrates directive and the possibility of developing lagoons. I agree with the Senator that lagoons would represent a very retrograde step. We are all aware of cases in which farmers and children have lost their lives in slurry tanks. While tanks are generally well covered, farmers remove grids for the purpose of agitating slurry. In such circumstances, children and farmers have fallen into the tanks. It would not be acceptable to facilitate open lagoons which would create a much more serious health and safety hazard.

The Bill goes a long way in protecting workers. Concerns have been raised about the attitude of some local authorities to workers in the fire service. I understand that members of the service who would previously gone on day training courses will no longer be paid for the hours of travel associated with them as a result of changes in working practices on foot of the benchmarking process. The change will act as a disincentive to attend to the temporary firefighters who provide a great level of service to the community. While local authorities have sought to limit costs in implementing benchmarking, the ultimate cost will be that firefighters fail to receive the level of training they require on an ongoing basis. It is an issue which must be addressed.

The Minister of State will be aware of a pharmaceutical plant in County Clare which had difficulties in terms of its emissions and which have been of concern to workers as well as the wider public. An important by-product of the Bill's provisions to protect workers will be that the information on the effects of emissions with which they will have to be provided will also be of assistance to the general population.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not take an active role in providing information on emissions to the public as it sees the function as the responsibility of the EPA. Unfortunately, the EPA considers its role to be one of licensing, regulation and the pursuit through the courts of those who breach the conditions of their licences. That is not good enough for the public. While there may not be problems associated with certain emissions, concern and anxiety is generated by a lack of knowledge about supposed potential effects. Following the recent court case over a plastics company in the region, people in Senator O'Rourke's constituency are familiar with these concerns over emissions. This matter should be investigated. I thank the Minister for State and wish him well with the Bill.

I concur with other speakers in welcoming the Minister of State to the House. I have discussed this Bill with him for a long time. He is the right man for this job and is scrupulous in taking notes. His speech was informative and sensible but not wordy. I have an interest in the Bill because I was formerly Minister of State with responsibility for labour affairs. At that time the Health and Safety Authority, which is an excellent body, was under the leadership of Mr. Tom Walsh. Mr. Walsh, who is now a consultant, is very capable, knowledgeable on health and safety matters and impressed me by his dedication to work.

In 1989, the first health and safety legislation was introduced in response to an EU directive. The current Bill forms part of the codifying process in this area. It is welcome that fines, which were derisory, will be increased with the passing of this Bill. Formerly, fines did not keep pace with inflation or correspond with the seriousness of an accident. Heed will be paid to these more stringent penalties. The board of the Health and Safety Authority includes a good mix of employers, employees and Government nominees.

Harrowing accidents, often involving children, occur in the agricultural sector. It is sometimes inappropriate for a three year-old child to be present when farm work is being carried out. Slurry pits and machinery are the two greatest dangers on farms. It is difficult to maintain a constant watch on children but this must be done.

Tripping on a non-stick mat can result in severe injury or death. It is to the detriment of the economy that a significant amount of time has been lost due to a lack of attention in the work environment. Many firms employ health and safety officers to provide information. These officers sometimes meet on a social basis, when they hold quizzes and go on nights out. I was lucky to attend a number of these enjoyable events.

The EU is sometimes accused of being intrusive but its emphasis on workplace health and safety is worthy. Workers are empowered through access to information. It is important that members of the workforce take an interest in health. I am glad that the Minister of State is taking an active role in this matter. His Department includes many diligent officials who have a keen interest in legislation. I commend the Bill to the House and thank all who have contributed to its passage.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the Bill. I concur with the Leader's remarks on farm accidents. My wife, who grew up on a farm, often remarked that those from an urban background do not appreciate farming culture. However, in the context of the use of high technology on farms, it is tragic to hear of young children who fall off or are pinned under tractors. This happens on a regular basis and is widely publicised. I do not understand why parents do not ensure that children are strapped into safety harnesses. I raise this issue because the Minister of State noted the need for promotion of the concept of health and safety. The new health and safety body will presumably address this issue, perhaps through an advisory committee.

I first became aware of workplace health and safety as a teenager while employed by the Initial Towel Company in London, which controlled 97% of the market in washing facilities in Ireland and the UK. The company existed because of an Act which obliged employers to provide washing facilities and a certain degree of safety in the workplace.

The content of this Bill reveals how far we have advanced in the area of health and safety. While Ireland can boast of a proud record in this area, EU initiatives have also made a significant contribution. I sometimes wonder whether the public is aware of the daily impact of the EU on our lives and the manner in which directives are introduced. While the Government has an input into legislation through the Council of Ministers, it is ultimately a matter of incorporating EU initiatives into Irish law. I often wonder if the general public is aware of the growing importance of European institutions in our daily lives. I hope that all of us who are supportive of the EU constitutional treaty will take the opportunity in the forthcoming debate to inform and remind the public of the importance of these institutions.

Lack of health or safety provisions directly affected a young man from my home town of Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, Shane McGettigan, whose father Charlie McGettigan represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest. Incidentally, this year's entrants, who are from the Leader's home town of Athlone, are going to Kiev this week and I wish them well.

Shane McGettigan, who was 21, went to Boston five or six summers ago seeking employment, like many other young Irishmen. He and a young man from Dundalk worked on scaffolding in Quincey, outside Boston. They were employed to remove worn bricks from the side of an apartment block. Nobody told them anything about safety and they were not wearing harnesses while on the scaffolding. Their employer had been convicted of non-compliance with health and safety regulations. Both Shane and his friend fell from the scaffolding when the weight of the bricks toppled the platform and they both died. They died because their employer did not comply with the limited health and safety regulations that operate in the United States. There, the mighty dollar seems to be in the ascendant and health and safety measures are not always introduced. It is said there is a lack of education and awareness of health and safety in America. This Bill places great emphasis on ensuring greater awareness of these issues, although there is already a high level of compliance in this country.

Senator McDowell referred to the fact that the social partners and employers are supportive of this Bill, which is positive. There is not much point in the Government introducing legislation of this kind, which impacts directly on competitiveness and on the economic engine of the country, unless the partners comply with it.

I welcome the legislation and believe it is another building block in the efforts to improve health and safety at work. In 1989, when the then Minister for Labour, Deputy Bertie Ahern, introduced the first legislation in this area, the workforce numbered 1.2 million. Today, the workforce is approaching 2 million. There are cranes all over the country and much evidence of Ireland's economic progress, but with that progress comes responsibility, both for employers and employees.

Recent newspaper reports have stated that health and safety inspectors are taking a more proactive approach because they believe sufficient legislation is in place to allow them to pursue those who are not complying with the regulations. That is a welcome development and this House strongly supports the actions of the Minister of State in this area.

I welcome the Minister of State. In my experience of business, a good employer looks after his or her employees. This Bill is designed to punish rogue employers who do not cherish their employees. In my company, we value our staff highly. When my partner and I started the company, our staff motivated us. We had a flat management structure in place and our approach was maternalistic, in that we cared for our staff.

There are issues which cause concern for employers such as employees who have a record of getting into trouble at work. If an accident happens in a company, employers must determine if the accident is genuine or contrived.

Certain procedures must come into operation in the event of an accident. In my company, for example, an ambulance is called immediately. There are rules and procedures in place and we regularly practise the drill in the event of an accident because accidents can destroy a business if there are any misunderstandings or mistakes.

The Minister said in his speech that the Bill modernises health and safety laws. He described it as a significant piece of social legislation which affirms the Government's commitment to upholding the protection of workers. In my company there is no differentiation between employers and employees. We have a successful business because we care for our staff.

The 1989 Act, inspired by the tripartite commission of inquiry, chaired by Mr. Justice Barrington, applied safety and health laws to all Irish employment for the first time. Coinciding with the new preventive, rather than reactive, approach significant progress was made. The progress was based on the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act of 1989 and was strongly supported by successive Ministers.

Significant awareness of health and safety has led to a reduction in the numbers of deaths and accidents at work, but more needs to be done. As the Minister of State pointed out, the latest figures from the Health and Safety Authority show that 50 people died arising from work activities in 2004. Although this is a reduction of more than 25% in the rate of deaths at work since 1989, it is still totally unacceptable. Many of the accidents we read about in newspapers happen because of carelessness. Employers, particularly on building sites, are taking unnecessary risks with scaffolding and so forth. That is abhorrent and repulsive.

The Bill is a vehicle to relaunch and promote worker health and safety, especially for new workers. The costs to the economy from injuries at work include direct costs to State health and social insurance services; costs to employers, including insurance; lost time; lost production; and lost orders. The Minister quoted a frightening figure in this regard — injuries and ill health costs the economy €1.6 billion each year.

When the former Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Harney, introduced the minimum wage, I wrote to congratulate her. I support the principle of a minimum wage and I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, on increasing the rate. I wish him well in his work and I recognise, as an employer, that this Bill is designed to tackle the problem of rogue employers, of which there are many, unfortunately.

With the agreement of the House, I would like to share my time with Senator Henry.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and congratulate him and his officials on their Trojan work in putting this legislation together. While I have some reservations, I consider the Bill to be an impressive piece of legislation. There is nothing more important than for Irish workers to feel they are operating in a safe workplace and the Bill will achieve that.

From an early stage, reservations were expressed about aspects of the Bill, including the entitlement of employers to check that workers were not under the influence of any intoxicant. While there were some concerns that the provision might be abused, no one could object to an employer satisfying himself or herself that an employee was not under the influence of any intoxicant. That makes reasonable sense and as long as it can be implemented in a manner that is agreed and supported both by employers and employees, I do not see any difficulty with it.

The matching requirements of employers and employees are important. In his speech, the Minister of State said that employees also have an important role to play in ensuring health and safety in the workplace. As a trade union official, I often had to discuss with union members the fact that everybody has a responsibility in this regard. If there is some problem it should be pointed out and if the case is a reasonable one it should be dealt with. All health and safety legislation must be infused with large doses of common sense and pragmatism. That is the only way it will ever work because one cannot foresee every possible minor event that might arise. In this respect, people must be properly trained.

Section 10 provides that the training of employees will encompass the issues of health and safety and risk assessment, which is very important. It is only reasonable that employees must also undergo health and safety training and assessment. Nowadays, given the developments that have occurred in the workplace, the health and safety issue is everybody's shared responsibility.

As a trade union official for many years, I criticised employers for not having made this a serious issue. Now that we have moved to deal with it, we should make it clear that there is an equality of responsibility on people to ensure the workplace is safe. There is a requirement on employees to point out to employers what they think is dangerous. In addition, there is a responsibility on employers to act on such advice. The fact that people must prove that they have undergone health and safety training in certain areas is also important.

The legislation has changed in many ways since it was first published and it is so long since I first read it that I had forgotten certain aspects. While it may appear to be a minor point, the Minister should consider section 10(2) which states: "Training under this section shall be adapted to take account of new or changed risks to safety, health and welfare at work and shall, as appropriate, be repeated periodically".

This section refers to the need to adapt training periodically to respond to new or changed risks to safety. To put that in context, I am a member of the audit committee of Leinster House. Currently, that committee is undergoing an intense assessment of risks of all sorts — including financial and health and safety risks — attaching to the operation of the Houses of the Oireachtas. We are required to undertake such an assessment.

When the legislation was introduced, I understood there would be a requirement for an annual review of risk assessment, but it seems to have changed. Any audit should be required to deal with risk assessment. I hope that under the provisions of section 19, risk assessment will be reviewed by employers, at least annually. That would reflect the content of section 10(2), which should be formalised so that such an assessment would be made in the course of any year.

Section 20 should oblige employers to take action in this regard, taking into account what the risk assessment has thrown up. I will go into detail on this point on Committee Stage.

Regulation consultations are required between employers and employees because, while their responsibilities may not be equal, they are shared. If the Bill is going to work, there should be a requirement for consultation. In that way, an employee would be required to tell an employer about, for example, a risky fuse box or a potentially dangerous electric wire.

That is a technical point.

I am using those examples to illustrate a practical point, which is to ensure that, as section 10(2) provides, training "shall be adapted to take account of new or changed risks to safety...". That should be done in a structured fashion comprising a regular consultation between employers and employees on safety and an annual review of any safety risks. The consultation and review could be undertaken together. I am not talking about a three-day meeting, but management and staff could deal with whatever health and safety issues need to be taken into account, whether they are doing things correctly, whether any dangerous matters are being overlooked and, if so, what needs to be done about them. I would like the Bill to provide for such a consultation and review.

Good employers would have no difficulty in accepting a proviso to consult with workers which, in turn, would place an onus on workers to identify safety problems. I hope to table an amendment dealing with this point on Committee Stage and in the interim I would ask the Minister of State to examine the matter.

This legislation is progressive and seeks to put in place strategies and policies to deal with health and safety issues. It recognises health and safety as important aspects of the workplace environment. Workplace health and safety are European issues that involve a cost to employers. It is important, therefore, that such legislation should apply across Europe. As part of the Minister of State's additional duties, he should ensure that the level of protection and safety envisaged in the Bill will also be available to workers in every other jurisdiction in Europe. Apart from anything else, it creates a level playing pitch for competition.

I congratulate the Minister for having brought the legislation before the House. I hope he will take on board the points I have made and I look forward to discussing the Bill further on Committee Stage.

I thank Senator O'Toole for sharing his time with me. I welcome the Minister of State to the House. The Bill is most welcome, as is the enormous progress that has been made in promoting workplace health and safety in recent years. I wish to address the problem of bullying that can occur in the workplace. Bullying is now recognised as a serious problem, not just for the individuals concerned but also for the organisations where it occurs.

On reading the Bill, I was glad to note in section 8(2)(b) that the general duties of the employer include,“managing and conducting work activities in such a way as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any improper conduct or behaviour likely to put the safety, health or welfare at work of his or her employees at risk”. In addition, as Senator O’Toole indicated, it imposes duties on employees, a welcome a development. Section 13, which lists the duties of an employee provides, for example, in subsection (1)(e) that the employee will “not engage in improper conduct or other behaviour that is likely to endanger his or her own safety, health and welfare at work or that of any other person”.

Health and safety issues in the workplace should not be confined to addressing physical dangers. We must also consider that people can also suffer emotional distress in work. Great credit is due to Dr. Mona O'Moore and Jacinta Kitt of Trinity College, Dublin, for their extensive work on bullying in the workplace. They have discovered that a significant level of bullying takes place here and Ireland is no better than anywhere else in this regard.

One of the most distressing conversations I can recall with a patient involved a 54 year old man who told me he felt sick with fright at the prospect of going to work every day because of a person in the workplace with whom he had to deal. He decided not to take redundancy as his firm had hoped and was left in a position in which he was extraordinarily vulnerable.

Many bullying victims are men and whereas women are bullied by men and women, men tend to be bullied by men. Bullying is a most destructive behaviour which usually involves repeated aggression and verbal, psychological and physical abuse and can be carried out by an individual or group of individuals. Isolated instances of aggressive behaviour, although they should not be tolerated, should not be described as bullying. Only inappropriate, aggressive behaviour which is systematic and ongoing is regarded as bullying.

Bullying does not only happen on the factory floor. Many of the case studies carried out by Dr. O'Moore and Dr. Kitt have been at the managerial and professional levels. Bullying has a dreadful effect on victims and impacts badly on the organisation in which it takes place. It may involve manipulation of the victim's reputation by rumour, gossip and ridicule. In addition, victims are often prevented from speaking or expressing themselves and are overlooked with loud voice criticism and obscenities. Social exclusion and isolation of victims is another problem. Manipulating the nature of the job or the ability of the victim to perform the work by overloading the amount of work he or she receives or withholding information, setting meaningless tasks or not allocating work to the victim can have serious consequences. Physical abuse and threats are also common.

The issue of suicide and associated problems were raised earlier. Unfortunately, in a significant number of cases of suicide relatives of the victim believe he or she was bullied either at school or work. The issue of bullying must, therefore, be addressed. While a safety statement may not be the appropriate forum for doing so, codes of practice, about which employers and employees must be conscious, could be introduced in the workplace.

I am concerned that we are not making sufficient progress in the area of bullying. I have been approached by people with adult children of academic brilliance who were bullied, in some cases by people who were less clever than the victim but held senior positions in various departments. Bullying victims suffer stress and ill health in their daily lives and are affected in numerous other ways, including by conditions such as depression and high blood pressure.

It has been found that organisations which have allowed bullying to take place suffer from reduced efficiency, quality and quality control, low staff morale, an atmosphere of tension and high staff turnover rates. Any employer with high staff turnover should identify problems in the workplace. High rates of absenteeism, declining productivity and profits, a lack of creativity and initiative and an increasing number of cases taken to industrial tribunals are the products of bullying. These factors demonstrate the serious impact bullying can have on productivity. If these matters were brought to the attention of employers, I am certain they would take great care to ensure bullying did not take place in their workplace. No one wants such behaviour on their premises.

Employers should publish and strongly promote a policy statement that bullying is unacceptable behaviour and develop procedures for reporting, noting and investigating incidents of such behaviour. They should also develop a programme of support for those affected by bullying behaviour and introduce disciplinary procedures or rehabilitative measures for those who engage in bullying. These suggestions feature in a paper written by Dr. O'Moore on bullying in the workplace. It is interesting that she recommends rehabilitative measures as well as disciplinary procedures for those who engage in bullying. She also recommends regular evaluation of the effectiveness of anti-bullying programmes.

I welcome the Bill and hope my comments will be noted. I am certain the elimination of such anti-social behaviour from the workplace is part of the thrust of the Bill. Bullying is a major problem which has serious mental and physical effects on the victim and is of no value to the organisations in which it takes place.

I thank Senators from all sides who participated in the debate for their constructive and helpful comments and assure the House I approach this debate with an open mind and am open to accepting amendments tabled on Committee or Report Stages.

Senator Coghlan asked a number of important questions, including one regarding resources for the Health and Safety Authority. The authority's budget this year is €16.1 million, a substantial increase of 12% on last year. The Senator also asked about section 18(4). This subsection is intended to allow an employer to appoint a person as the competent person in the area of compliance in circumstances where such a person is available in the workforce. The view until now was that a person from outside the workplace had to be employed for this purpose. The new provision will permit a person from within the organisation to perform this role.

Senator Leydon welcomed the codes of practice for smaller operators which will be a major advance on the current position. He also referred to the number of deaths in workplace accidents to date this year. This figure is unacceptable and the Health and Safety Authority is making every effort to bring home to people that everybody has a role to play in ensuring we do not have further fatalities.

A number of Senators raised the issue of safety on the farm. I welcome the role played by the farming organisations, Teagasc and others in drawing attention to the difficulties in the sector and providing training in this area. Senator Feighan, an employer, mentioned an issue which I consider to be the real enemy of the health and safety ethos, namely, the sense of complacency which features to some extent in all workplaces. With regard to his question on children, they are included in the statistics.

The Senator also made a reasonable point that one cannot put a price on safety. It is incumbent on us to ensure all necessary action is taken to make people safe in their workplaces. This view has been reflected across the House.

Some concerns were expressed by Senator Feighan and others about the inordinate cost small employers believe attach to health and safety issues in their specific circumstances. The Bill addresses this issue by providing that employers with fewer than three employees will introduce a code of practice prepared for a number of sectors by the Health and Safety Authority. To comply with the requirements, such employers will be required only to carry out a risk assessment and tick off some boxes. This is a significant advance which will help employers to be compliant and, more important, ensure health and safety issues are given due care and attention in their workplace.

Senator Dardis welcomed the decrease in awards under the PIAB and it is important to remind employers that there are also financial benefits to a good health and safety regime. It is understandable that people refer to the costs involved but on the other side of the equation considerable savings can be made under a good health and safety scheme. Senator Dardis made the reasonable point that we all have the right to expect to return home safely from work but, unfortunately, that does not happen in many cases.

The Senator mentioned problems such as litter that illustrate an ethos of carelessness and a lack of consideration. Litter would not imbue a person with confidence in the health and safety regime of an establishment that operates in such a fashion. This forms part of the move towards a norm of being careful about the working environment.

Senator Moylan mentioned his own experience and made an important point on underground utilities, particularly electricity. Frequently, there are no accurate drawings to tell someone entering a site where the services are located. He also proposed that people should be required to remove overhead electricity cables before the commencement of construction. That is a sensible suggestion and we should look at it. He mentioned the danger of quads that do not have roller bars and that is a matter that requires consideration. Much work will be done when the Bill is passed to prepare regulations for the construction sector and we will have the opportunity to examine this in detail on Committee Stage.

Senator McDowell mentioned the staggering injury statistics. Regulation is vital in this area and the opposition we have encountered is short sighted. It is, however, an enormous step forward that the social partners are so proactive in the area of health and safety. I found them most co-operative in working on this Bill. Sometimes they had harsh things to say but if they made sense, I was prepared to amend the Bill in the Dáil and if there are more sensible amendments, I will accept them here.

The chemical industry was also mentioned by both Senator McDowell and Senator Dooley. The REACH directive is likely to manifest itself in additional responsibility for the Health and Safety Authority and I assure the Senators that there will be additional resources if that is the case. It is an important area and horrific accidents can arise from cutting corners in this and other industries.

Senator McDowell expressed concern about the provisions in section 13 for testing for intoxicants. Prior to the introduction of regulations, I intend to have the Health and Safety Authority consult widely with the social partners, advisory bodies in the area and, subsequently, to refer the matter to the Oireachtas committee for further consideration.

Corporate manslaughter was mentioned. It is an issue that is being dealt with by the Law Reform Commission and further recommendations are expected in the autumn. I will await a Government decision before making legislative provision. The Senator reminded us that the State has not had a wonderful record in terms of its own obligations, something we should bear in mind when we lecture other employers.

Senator Dooley mentioned that in less affluent times, cost was a greater deterrent when it came to good health and safety practices. He also mentioned the need to revisit the FÁS training regime. A review of the procedures will be undertaken shortly. An enormous number of people have received Safe Pass training from FÁS, five times more than expected. Some deficiencies arose in the programme that were debated in the Dáil and we will learn lessons from them.

Many Senators referred to farm safety and Senator Dooley made specific mention of training for fire services. I will update the House on that when I get more information.

Senator O'Rourke acknowledged the role of the officials from the Department and I acknowledge the role she played when she was Minister. She mentioned the dangers involved when children are near machinery. Any of us who have worked on a farm have found it difficult to resist the entreaties of children who cannot bear to be left off the tractor. Unfortunately, many accidents result from behaviour of that nature. Senator Mooney suggested that a safety harness should be provided. We will refer this issue to the advisory bodies dealing with farm safety. Those bodies have done tremendous work and have been most helpful.

Senator Mooney referred to his experience in London and the health and safety regulations that were in place there long before the 1989 Act came into force here. He mentioned the positive role of the EU whichde facto brought about the introduction of the 1989 Act through regulations.

Senator White gave the viewpoint of an employer and it was good to hear her stressing the importance of staff. She mentioned the minimum wage, as did Senator Dooley, and I welcome their comments. I caught some flak on that but there is only a small number of rogue employers and this legislation is designed to ensure they comply like everyone else.

Senator O'Toole also expressed reservations about section 13 and the provisions on intoxicants. He was not opposed to the measure, as he pointed out, but he was concerned about how we will go about this. Following consultation, we will draft regulations that will serve this purpose because there are some employments in which it may be necessary to have provision for testing of this nature. It will be brought before the Oireachtas committee, giving a further opportunity to debate it.

Senator O'Toole also asked about section 10(2) which deals with new and changed risks, and its connection with section 19 on risk assessment. I assure him that the risk assessment provision in section 19 addresses his concerns. He pointed out that there are costs involved but we should ensure everyone in Europe complies with the same regulations and pays the same costs. It has been interesting to represent the Government at Council of Ministers' meetings and to hear the different perspectives of some of our European partners.

I welcome Senator Henry's comments about bullying in the workplace. My predecessor, Deputy Fahey, commissioned a report from an expert group on bullying in the workplace. I hope to get that report within the next few weeks. I will publish it when I receive it and I will make proposals to Government based on its recommendations. Legislation may be required but I cannot say for certain in advance of seeing the document. The Senator made a fair point about the destructive psychological and physical effects of bullying in the workplace and the enormous damage it can cause. I have no doubt that many of the work days missed are a result of bullying.

I thank Senators for their participation and look forward to Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 17 May 2004.