ERGONOMICS AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND SAFETY REQUIREMENTS IN IRELAND
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Ireland Ergonomics Requirements
Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005,it is one of the many duties of the employer to ensure that reasonably practicable measures are taken as necessary to ensure the safety and health of his employees at work. It also includes providing and maintaining for those persons a work environment which is safe, without risk to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work. This is the reason why ergonomics at the workplace needs to be looked at.
One of the key challenges for the present Work from Home situation would be setting up an ergonomic workstation. This could be understood with the information available in these guidance documents. These documents share useful information to prevent Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) at the workplace, which are muscle, tendon or nerve disorders caused by repetitive exertions, rapid motions, awkward postures, high force contact stresses, vibrations, and/ or low temperatures. Work-related MSDs are also referred to as cumulative trauma disorders, repetitive strain injuries, or repetitive motion illnesses. The Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Risk Assessment Worksheet which is of one the guidance documents, helps anyone who needs help with setting up their laptop or external monitors.
Ireland Environmental Health and Safety Requirements
All companies based in Ireland are to abide by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and its subsidiary legislations. The Act requires all employers to conduct a risk assessment to identify hazards. Hazard here means anything with the potential to cause bodily injury, and includes any physical, chemical, biological, mechanical, electrical, or ergonomic hazard. Health and Safety Authority’s, guide on Risk Assessment and Safety Statements suggests that all risks assessments must be reviewed at least annually and communicated with all staff. Given the current situation where Work from Home has been the new adaptation for most companies, it would be more relevant to ensure that the risk assessments are updated accordingly. This is to ensure that companies are legally compliant as well as reviewed their Business Continuity Plan for any emergency or unforeseen situation.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2016 requires mandatory reporting of any fatal and non-fatal accident and dangerous occurrences;
- Fatal accidents must be reported immediately to the Authority or Gardaí (state police of Irish Republic). Subsequently, the formal report should be submitted to the Authority within five working days of the death.
- Non-fatal accidents or dangerous occurrences should be reported to the Authority within ten working days of the event.
- The injury of any employee because of an accident while at work where the injury results in the employee being unable to carry out their normal work duties for more than three consecutive days, excluding the day of the accident, must be reported.
- The responsible person shall keep a record of any accident or dangerous occurrence which is required to be reported under Regulation 225 to the Authority, for a period of 10 years from the date of the accident or dangerous occurrence
The reported data helps the authorities to identify persons and industries at risk, as well as to identify new and emerging ones.
As of 8 May 2020, employers and employees are required to comply with the Return to Work Safety Protocol COVID-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers, a collaborative effort by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Health Services Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. In this protocol, clear terms are spelt out for employers and employees to fulfil and after a workplace resumes operation on reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.
Key information on
What can you do as an Employer to ensure compliance?
Develop and/or Update the COVID-19 Response Plan
Some of the key actions as below:
- address the level(s) of risk associated with various workplaces and work activities in the COVID-19 business plans and OSH risk assessments. For example, where, how and to what sources of COVID-19 might workers be exposed, including the public, customers, co-workers etc.
- consider worker’s individual risk factors (i.e., older workers, presence of underlying medical conditions, etc.).
- include in the plan a response plan to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19.
- Regular update to staff on updates on work arrangements or other useful information via appropriate channels, i.e., Intranet, emails, virtual town hall meetings, etc.
Keeping updated with legal updates is as important as having to comply with them. It is a chargeable offence to be non-compliant which can result with penalty along with jail term depending on the severity of the event.
How can Fit for Work help?
To learn more about setting up or managing an ergonomics programme that supports staff working from home or in the office or support with staying legally compliant, you can reach out to Fit for Work. For more information on our Ergonomics Self-Assessment and Education Tool, contact us.