Occupational health & safety

08 December 2019

Important COVID-19 Update: All businesses must implement the Government's mandatory health & safety measures to mitigate the risks of COVID-19. For more details, see our review of the Return to Work Protocol here.    

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, you have a general duty to ensure the safety, health and welfare of your employees.

Occupational health and occupational health & safety are catchall terms used to cover the range of measures you must take to comply with this duty and prevent work-related ill health. 

If you would like advice on occupational health from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call any time day or night. Call us on 0818 923 923 or request a callback here.

Otherwise, you read our guide for further insights into safety in the workplace.

Occupational health assessments—what to expect

As well as your duty to ensure the safety, health and welfare of employees, employment equality laws or industry-specific regulations will sometimes demand that employees undergo an occupational health assessment.

These can range from pre-employment screenings (to ensure the employee is fit and healthy to carry out their duties) to assessments required under an absence management or drug and alcohol testing policy.

An occupational health assessment may involve the employee completing an occupational health questionnaire or attending a medical professional for an independent assessment.

Depending on the nature of the job and the reason for the assessment, the following non-exhaustive list of tests could be carried out:

  • Occupational health questionnaire.
  • Physical examination.
  • Night worker test.
  • Hearing test.
  • Vision test.
  • Drugs/alcohol screening.
  • Breathing/lung function test.
  • Blood screening.
  • Immunisation/vaccination.

Risk assessments

A key part of the duty to ensure employee safety, health and welfare is the employer’s duty to carry out an occupational health and safety risk assessment and keep a written record of the risks identified.

We help thousands of businesses all over Ireland with their health & safety compliance including the supply of documentation like occupational health risk assessment templates.

Safety statements

The aim of a risk assessment is to identify occupational health & safety issues in the workplace. Common examples of risks include:

  • Biological hazards.
  • Chemical hazards.
  • Physical injuries due to the working environment.
  • Ergonomic issues—such as computer equipment.
  • Psychosocial issues—such as depression or stress.

Once these workplace-specific occupational health risk assessments are concluded, the results need to be included in a written Safety Statement.

The Safety Statement outlines the responsibilities of all levels of staff and how they must work together to promote occupational health in the workplace.

Your ongoing process

Creating and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace is something you’ll have to monitor at all times.

As your business grows and develops, it will become necessary to carry out updated risk assessments to take account of any new risks from acquiring new premises for instance. 

Occupational safety and health administration is a key issue for employers. Failure to comply with health and safety regulations may lead to enforcement and prosecution action by the Health & Safety Authority.

Breaching health & safety laws exposes your business to claims for damages and is potentially a criminal offence.

The penalties for directors and other company officers include criminal convictions, fines of up to €3 million per charge and/or two years’ imprisonment.

As you can see failing to keep on top of your occupational safety & health administration puts your business at serious risk.

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