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Health & Safety in the Irish Construction Industry

Health & Safety

Different workplaces all carry different types of risk. The construction industry in Ireland has a unique set of hazards that involve higher levels of risk than other workplaces. Irish construction workers are often working with heavy plant and machinery as well as high powered tools. This obviously exposes them to the risk of injury.

The main legislation covering the health and safety of Irish construction workers is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (as amended).

It lays out the rights and obligations of both employers and employees in the Irish construction industry.

Almost all of the specific health and safety laws that apply generally to all employment are set out in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007- 2020. They are available along with other relevant regulations on the website of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

Health & Safety and COVID 19

Irish construction workers have a risk of exposure to COVID-19 in their workplace.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) published COVID-19 advice for employers. There is specific advice for workplaces where:

  • The nature of the work poses an occupational exposure health risk to COVID-19

Employers are advised to follow the latest public health advice and must:

  • Identify measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infection
  • Implement suitable control measures in the workplace

Irish construction workers should follow the official public health advice and guidance. They should take care to follow good hygiene practices to protect against infections. For example, the regular and thorough washing of hands and good respiratory hygiene.

Irish construction workers that develop symptoms of coronavirus should contact their GP by phone.

For more information on the health and safety actions that construction industry employers should take please read the HSA’s general COVID-19 FAQ.

Construction Industry Employer’s duties on Health & Safety

Irish construction industry employers have a duty to ensure that their employees’ have proper safety, health and welfare at work. Since the risk of workplace injuries is high on construction sites, the construction industry employer must take certain actions including:

  • Provide and maintain a safe workplace which uses safe plant and equipment. For example, any chains that are used for lifting materials using teleporters or cranes must be tested regularly to ensure correct strength.
  • Prevent risks from employees using any article or substance, and from exposure to physical agents, noise and vibration. For example, construction workers must always wear correct PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when dealing with hazardous chemicals on site.
  • Prevent any improper conduct or behaviour likely to put the safety, health and welfare of employees at risk
  • Provide sufficient training to employees on health and safety.
  • Provide adequate protective clothing and equipment to employees
  • Irish construction employers should appoint a competent person as the companies’ safety officer

Construction Industry Employee’s duties include:

  • Responsibility to take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of themselves and of other people in the workplace
  • Report any defective plant or equipment which might be a danger to health and safety
  • Ensure not to engage in misconduct that would endanger themselves or others
  • Not be under the influence alcohol or drugs in the workplace
  • Partake in any reasonable medical or other assessment as requested by the construction industry employer

Risk assessment and safety statement

Every Irish construction employer is required by law to carry out a risk assessment for their workplace. This risk assessment involves:

  • Identifying any hazards in the workplace such as chemicals, power tools etc.
  • Assessing the risks arising from such hazards. For example, if a power saw is being used to cut timbers, there is a risk that splinters could enter the eye of the operator.
  • Identifying the steps to be taken to deal with any risks. In the case of the power saw, the construction worker needs to wear the correct PPE including a protective helmet with a visor to protect the eyes.
Safety statement
Irish construction employers must also prepare a safety statement.

Based on the risk assessment, the Irish construction employer must also prepare a safety statement. This should layout the persons that are responsible for safety issues. This statement should be available to employees and it should be reviewed by the Irish construction employer on a regular basis.

Please see the HSA guidelines on risk assessments and safety statements.

Protective equipment and measures

As with the example of the power saw, Irish construction employers should make their employees aware of any risks that they need to wear PPE.

The employer should tell employees about any risks that mean they need to wear protective equipment (such as protective clothing, headgear, footwear, eyewear or gloves). The employer should provide the protective equipment as well as training on how to use it correctly.

Irish construction workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own safety and to use any protective equipment provided. Please see more information on the HSA’s list of frequently asked questions about personal protective equipment.

Reporting accidents

Any accidents that occur in the workplace need to be reported to the employer who then needs to record all details of the incident. Reporting the accident in this way will protect the employee’s rights to social welfare. It will also protect other rights that could arise because of an occupational accident. Irish construction employers must report to the HSA any accident that results in an employee being absent for three consecutive days at work (not including the day of the accident).

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