I propose to take Questions Nos. 267 and 268 together.
Council Directive (EU) 2017/159 on the implementation of the social partners’ agreement on the Work in Fishing Convention aims to enhance the working and living conditions for fishers working in the fishing sector on vessels registered in an EU Member State. As the agreement is a social partnership agreement, the Directive merely implements the Agreement as agreed between the social partners in 2012, and the Agreement itself was not subject to any changes during the discussions on the Directive in the Social Questions Working Party. My Department is supportive of the objective of the Directive.
On 9th October, my Department issued Marine Notice 42 of 2019, to provide key stakeholders with a brief overview of some of the main changes that will come into effect once the draft legislation has been finalised. Summarising the provisions of Article 6 of the Annex to Council Directive (EU) 2017/159, Marine Notice 42 of 2019 states that, “fishers who are 16 or 17 years of age may perform duties provided that they are no longer subject to compulsory full-time schooling, they have completed a basic pre-sea training course, their mental and physical well-being is fully protected and they have received adequate instruction”.
The requirement to complete a basic pre-sea training course is a long established practice. Under the provisions of S.I. No. 587/2001 Fishing Vessel (Basic Safety Training) Regulations, 2001, a new entrant, defined as “a person who is for the first time gainfully employed or engaged as a crew member” must complete a safety training course before proceeding to sea. Bord Iascaigh Mhara provides Basic Safety Training for new entrants. In keeping with the requirements of S.I. No. 587/2001, the training consists of three elements: Personal Survival Techniques (STCW-95 Certificate), Elementary First Aid (STCW-95 Certificate) and Fire Prevention and Safety Awareness.
More generally in relation to the safety of workers, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and its subsidiary regulations cover all workers, irrespective of age or work activity. There is a statutory responsibility for a risk assessment to be carried and maintained and that safety controls are set out in the employer’s legally required safety statement. Where the employer’s risk assessment finds that only light work on fishing vessels can be done safely by anyone over 15 and under 18, then it is the employer's legal responsibility to ensure that such a limitation on the work and workers is imposed.
It should be noted that Part 6, Chapter 1 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No 299 of 2007), relating to the protection of children and young persons, includes provisions around the employer carrying out risk assessments to determine any specific risks to the safety, health and welfare of children (under 16) and young persons (under 18) arising from how work is carried out. Any such risk assessment should be sufficiently robust to determine if the work involved is beyond the physical or psychological capacity of the child or young person, and take account of the use of harmful substances, extremes of heat, cold, noise or vibration in the work which a child/young person may not recognize as risks. It should be noted that this legislation falls under the remit of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.