Tuesday, 14 December 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
89. Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of building sites visited by the Health and Safety Authority to date in 1999; the number of construction firms instructed to undertake additional safety measures on their sites; the number of sites where orders to cease construction were issued; and her views on the call by SIPTU for the introduction of full-time roving independent safety representatives. [26927/99]
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. T. Kitt): The administration, enforcement and promotion of occupational health and safety legislation is a day to day matter for the National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health, known as the Health and Safety Authority.
I understand from the authority that 3,078 construction sites were visited by it in the current year up to 5 December. A total of 327 prohibition notices were issued by inspectors of the authority prohibiting the carrying on of specific activities until the matters specified in the notice had been remedied. Such notices may apply to all or part of a site depending on the circumstances. Three sites were closed under orders of the High Court obtained under section 39 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989. A further five sites were the subject of voluntary closures, that is, where no formal notice was issued by an inspector. In addition, 137 improvement notices were served on construction sites requiring specific measures to be taken. A substantial number of written and verbal warnings were also issued by inspectors in the course of carrying out their duties in relation to construction sites. If the Deputy requires any additional information, I advise that he get in touch directly with the authority at 10 Hogan Place, Dublin 2; telephone (01) 614 7000.
The proper management of workplace health and safety in all sectors of employment is based on the principles of legislation, enforcement,  information and partnership. Inspection is but one element in the drive to improve safety standards in all sectors of employment. While the primary statutory duty of care to ensure a safe place of work rests with the employer, commitment and participation from all sides is necessary to foster safe work practices on site.
I have been urging a partnership approach and was pleased that recent discussions between the authority, ICTU and CIF culminated in the construction safety partnership agreement which I launched in October of this year. The partnership will consider all aspects of construction site safety and is to produce a construction industry safety plan within three months which will incorporate the recommendations of both the forum for the Construction Industry and the authority's Construction Advisory Committee and will include proposals related to consultation and safety representation. All relevant proposals, including those made by SIPTU in relation to full-time safety representatives, will be considered in the preparation of the plan which I look forward to receiving in due course.
In addition to the construction safety partnership, a joint construction site safety representatives pilot programme was also announced. This pilot programme will benefit directly the participating projects and will also generate an awareness of health and safety among all employers and employees.
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