I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Fianna Fáil is bringing forward the Bill to strengthen current health and safety legislation for recreational users of funfairs and fairground equipment provided in Ireland. The Bill will give statutory effect to the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, to ensure the compliance of funfair operators with health and safety provisions. Under our proposals, any funfair operator must carry out a duty of reasonable care towards recreational users. This is the central plank of the Bill.
The Bill was drafted initially two years ago by Deputy Niall Collins. The Deputy is out of the country on Oireachtas business and not in a position to take the Bill this evening. I have worked on the Bill in the same committee and that is the reason I am taking it.
Under the Bill, the HSA would be empowered under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to ensure funfair operators have a duty to safeguard recreational users of fairground equipment, including roller coasters, and maintain the equipment in a safe condition. The draft legislation provides for penalising operators found to have failed to take reasonable care to maintain fairground equipment in a safe condition.
The first aspect of the Bill sets out exactly what is fairground equipment Section 1 defines "fairground equipment" as including "any fairground ride or any similar equipment which is designed to be in motion for entertainment purposes with members of the public on or inside it, any equipment which is designed to be used by members of the public for entertainment purposes either as a slide or for bouncing upon, and any swings, dodgems and other equipment which is designed to be in motion wholly or partly under the control of, or to be put in motion by a member of the public or any equipment which may be prescribed, in the interests of public safety, for the purposes of this section". The definition covers most of the hurdy-gurdy rides that we all know and love.
The legislation includes provisions to penalise operators found to have failed to take reasonable care to maintain fairground equipment in a safe condition.
There are no provisions in Ireland's workplace health and safety law to protect users of fairground equipment. This is in contrast to other common law jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, where workplace health and safety legislation applies directly to the fairground and amusement park industry. Significantly, UK law protects not only people at work but also members of the public and volunteers who may be affected by a work activity with legal duties to protect the health and safety of those using fairground machines. In addition, the UK has a large body of documentation on guidance and safety practice. This is sorely missing in Ireland.
Unless the current legislative gap is bridged in Ireland further tragic accidents may occur. One such accident was revealed in a "Prime Time Investigates" programme broadcast on RTÉ more than two years ago. In the programme, the parent of a 12-year-old girl revealed how his daughter had broken her neck on a roller-coaster. Shockingly, it transpired that the legislative deficit in the area means no State body has direct responsibility to investigate health and safety incidents in theme parks and funfair rides or equipment. During the programme, the HSA said the legislation it operates under does not extend to the investigation of such incidents. Replies to parliamentary questions by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation reiterated that the authority "does not have the statutory responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of users of fairground equipment". It is simply not justifiable that in 2019 no State body has the power to investigate reports of accidents or injuries on fairground sites in respect of the use of funfair equipment.
Our Bill attempts to fill a legal lacuna in the regulatory framework. We look forward to working constructively with stakeholders and Members and we will take on board amendments on Committee Stage to further improve the Bill.
The Bill was first drafted two years ago. As Members know I live in County Waterford. The Minister of State and others present will be familiar with Tramore, which is a popular resort. We met the stakeholders from there two years ago. They are broadly supportive of what the Bill seeks to achieve.
We are only on Second Stage and no Bill is perfect at the outset. We welcome further dialogue as well as any amendments to the Bill. There is need for the lacuna to be sorted.
The Minister of State might ask me some questions. Our Bill will not encourage fraudulent insurance claims. We have made provision to guard against this. Under section 2, where a person enters a funfair for the purpose of committing an offence, that is, to injure himself or herself intentionally or to act with reckless disregard, the funfair operator shall not be liable for a breach of the duty imposed. We believe this provision will address that issue and deter fraudulent behaviour.
Another question the Minister of State might ask is whether the Planning and Development Act 2000 covers this safety issue.
While the Act enables safety certificates to be issued for fairground equipment by local authorities, and we are all familiar with those provisions, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has confirmed in a parliamentary question that planning legislation does not assign responsibility to a specific body to investigate accidents at funfairs. Licences are received from local authorities, and we have learned that the number of licences handed out over the last couple of years is fairly standard, in that it was 340 in 2018 and 343 in 2014. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation also confirmed in a parliamentary question that the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, does not have any statutory responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of users of fairground equipment. I refer again to the issue of the child who was injured in a fairground, and the fact that the HSA assistant chief executive at the time said: "To my knowledge there is no other statutory body that would have a role to investigate in relation to a public safety incident in a fairground or funfair".
This Bill is not intended to be a killjoy. It is intended to ensure the health and safety of all persons who use funfairs and hurdy-gurdies, so that if, unfortunately, an incident happened, the HSA would be in a position to enter, investigate and try to make sure another incident would not happen again. A huge hole in legislation needs to be bridged to protect users of fairground equipment such as rollercoasters. In regard to the "Prime Time Investigates" programme broadcast on RTÉ in February 2017, the parents of the injured child were absolutely appalled and the father said:
But when we raised the issue and our concerns that this could happen to someone else and find that no one is responsible, that no one is looking after the health of our children, that there is no oversight, to find that neither the Health and Safety Authority or no other body is overseeing the health and safety, protecting our children. That has been quite a shock to us and this is something that needs to be dealt with.
This Bill was born out of that RTÉ "Prime Time Investigates" programme, when we learned about that young girl, who I believe has recovered sufficiently, thank God, and that nobody was able to investigate that incident. The operator of a funfair, or the provider of fairground equipment, must apply to the local authority for a licence to make sure the equipment is sound, safe and can be used. Unfortunately, accidents happen, and when an accident happens, there has to be someone responsible who can go in, check it out, see what went wrong, and try to ensure it never goes wrong again.
This is a very short Bill. Section 1 deals with the definitions. Section 2 inserts an additional section after section 8 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to provide employer duties and duty owed to persons at a funfair. Section 3 is a standard provision providing for the citation and commencement of the Bill. I see no reason there cannot be cross-party support for this. It is an amending Bill, but the amendment is meant well, and aims to ensure the health and safety of anyone who uses this equipment. It is welcomed by the stakeholders, who are very concerned about health and safety because this is their business and livelihood. They do not want any issues, but if there is an issue they want to be able to deal with it. The central plank of this is that we have to ensure a duty of reasonable care to recreational users. I hope the Minister of State will give it his best consideration, and that he will see that this is an extremely fair Bill. It aims to sort out an area where we discovered an anomaly in the 2005 legislation.