Thursday, 14 May 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
169. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if health and safety regulations are achieved by all schools here with particular reference to accommodation requirements resulting in the occupation of landings, hallways, passageways or other accommodation not designed for classroom use; if his attention has been drawn to such situations; the way he will address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19507/09]
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): The requirement for a Health and Safety Statement for the work place is governed by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. This Act, which is regulated by the Health and Safety Authority, sets out the main provisions for securing and improving the safety, health and welfare of people at work, which includes the control of safety and health at work, the management and organisation of systems of work necessary to achieve these goals and the responsibilities and roles of employers, employees and others. Under the Act, school authorities are responsible for managing safety, health and welfare in schools and for having a safety statement in place in their schools, to identify possible hazards, assess the risks to health and safety and put appropriate safeguards in place. In practical terms, individual school authorities are best placed to assess the detail of their own health and safety requirements and there are many information sources such as Codes of Practices, guidelines, legislation and standards available to support them in this task. It is a matter for schools to decide whether or not to employ an expert to carry out this work on their behalf and to meet the cost of so doing.
My Department is involved in developing health and safety guidelines to support post-primary schools in meeting their obligations under the prescribed legislation. This project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Health and Safety Authority, the State Claims Agency and the School Development Planning Initiative. Provision is built into the School Building and Modernisation Programme to enable schools address urgent health and safety problems. Under the annual Minor Works Grant, around €27 million was paid last December to primary schools throughout the country to enable thousands of small scale works to be completed without the need to interact with my Department. Individual primary schools received a grant in the sum of €5,500 plus €18.50 per pupil. The Summer Works Scheme, which was introduced during 2004, provides capital grants for smaller scale refurbishment works at primary and post-primary schools. Responsibility for the delivery of the projects is entirely devolved to the schools and their design teams. The scope of works covered under this scheme is intended to address Health and Safety issues in all schools as well as improvement works to the existing fabric of the buildings. My Department also sets aside a contingency sum each year to deal with emergency works in primary and post-primary schools, including health and safety works. Urgently required health and safety works relating to asbestos removal, radon mitigation or dust extraction may be grant-aided under the remediation programmes operated by the School Building Section of my Department.
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