Several pieces of legislation enforced by the Health and Safety Authority contain provisions that require inspections to be undertaken by competent persons at predefined statutory intervals. Such legislation includes the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 299 of 2007) in respect to equipment used for working at height including scaffolding and lifting equipment and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No. 291 of 2013), in respect to excavations and personal flotation devices. The continued safe use of this equipment depends, in a large part, on the continued safety of the equipment and accessories involved. Failures in this type of equipment can have significant or even fatal consequences for workers and members of the public. Duty-holders have a legal responsibility to maintain workplaces, and work equipment in a condition that is safe and to ensure that any required statutory inspections, examinations or testing are undertaken as required. Prior to allowing persons to use equipment for working at height including scaffolding and lifting equipment, or use of personal flotation devices or work in excavations the duty holder must determine the safety of same. This is in part determined by the carrying out of inspections in respect to each of the above.
There is currently no derogation in respect of the provisions of the Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005 or its associated statutory provisions as a result of the Covid-19 public health situation. Employers are reminded of their general duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the safety health and welfare at work of their employees and that of others who may be present at the place of work. Additionally, employers must continue to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the design, provision and maintenance of work at height equipment including scaffolding and lifting equipment as well as personal flotation devices and excavations so that they are safe and without risk to health. Should duty-holders have any concern about the continued safe use of work at height equipment including scaffolding, lifting equipment or personal flotation devices it should be removed from service until such concerns have been appropriately addressed. Likewise should duty-holders have any concern about the safety of excavations, they must not allow any persons enter same.
These statutory inspections relate to places of work and there is no legal requirement to carry out these inspections during a time when the site is closed down. Employers should ensure that their sites are left in a safe condition for the duration of any shut down. Al
l equipment and excavations must be inspected by a competent person prior to being reused and the appropriate inspection forms completed as required.
Employers are advised to follow the latest public health advice and to identify and implement suitable control measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 infection in the workplace. These measures should be communicated to all relevant employees and others at the place of work. Competent persons who are working on site where there are restrictions arising from the risk of COVID-19 should comply with site rules and also take into account public health advice around preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Consideration by HSA
During inspections, the Authority will take into consideration all matters of fact when deciding the appropriate level of action to take where any contravention of the relevant statutory provisions are observed.
No relaxation of statutory requirements
As mentioned above, there is currently no exemption for or relaxation of the legislative requirements in respect to the undertaking of statutory inspections, examinations or testing. However, the Health and Safety Authority recognises this is a fluid situation, and we are keeping matters under review.
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