Understanding Safety: Safety Statements
The term safety statement is used to describe a document which summarises how an Irish company manages risk and provides an opportunity for company management to show commitment to their employees that workplace risk is effectively managed. Far too often, this document has been considered as a throw-away item and it has been my experience in recent times that many smaller employers get a safety statement because their insurers require it or they need it for a work contract and not because they necessarily buy into the effective management of risk as a good thing, from a legal, moral and financial perspective. ” The safety statement needs to address a number of other important workplace preventive and protective arrangements that address how employees and others are protected. “
The legal framework
The legal framework that requires an employer to develop a safety statement is based upon the general requirements of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, specifically in Section 20 of Part 3, Protective and Preventive Measures. Section 20(1) states that “Every employer shall prepare, or cause to be prepared, a written statement (to be known and referred to in this Act as a “safety statement”), based on the identification of the hazards and the risk assessment carried out under section 19 [section 19 relates to hazard identification and risk assessment], specifying the manner in which the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees shall be secured and managed.” 1
Organisational elements: Basic requirements
Because the safety statement is a risk management tool, the requirements of section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 is also relevant here. These play into how an employer keeps pace with changes with occupational risk and whilst many people think that their workplaces may be stable and unchanging, the only definite constant for all employers and their workforce is that of change: laws, regulations, technologies, customers, expectations, employees all change whether it’s a consideration or not. Some or all of these have the potential to influence the risk profile of even the smallest companies and so any safety statement to be relevant, it must reflect an employer current situation. The following must be considered:
- Risk assessments must take into consideration the work being carried out.
- They should be reviewed and amended by the employer when a significant change occurs.
- Where improvements have been identified by risk assessments these shall be implemented across all levels and activities that take place.
In addition to the identification, evaluation and management of occupational risk (just a quick reminder regarding risk, it is usually defined as a product of the likelihood of an adverse event and the severity of that event), the safety statement also needs to address a number of other important workplace preventive and protective arrangements that address how employees and others are protected. These include:
- Detail the arrangements that are in place to manage emergency situations and what’s known as imminent danger. Imminent danger is not specifically defined in the 2005 Act, but it can be thought of an immediate threat from workplace activities or practices that could cause death, serious injury or harm before workplace preventative or protective measure could eliminate it.
- The duties of employees which includes cooperating with an employer relating to safety health and welfare matters.
- The identification of people who may perform tasks defined in the safety statements such as fire wardens, first aiders, premises key-holders and other relevant safety-related roles and positions.
- Arrangements for workplace safety representatives, safety committees and the means for employees to consult with employers.
- Provide access for employees to the safety statement: specifically for new employees, when changes or updates are made and to those who may be subject to risks detailed in the document. As a minimum, it should be brought to the attention of employees at least on an annual basis.
- Where necessary in a form, manner and language understandable for employees.
- Provide a copy that is always available for employees and others to read.
- Contractors provide a copy of a safety statement to an employer where a contract of work has been agreed. For example, an office block owner would expect a window cleaning company to provide a safety statement to show amongst other things, how the window cleaning work at height issue is effectively managed.
With some much other non-safety legislation for employers to deal with on a day to day basis, the requirement to have a safety statement may seem to be yet another legal obligation that an employer must meet. Whilst that is true in the literal sense, the exposure of a business to safety risk is real and should be looked at as business risk exposure and not just through the safety prism. It is also worth taking the time to instruct and educate the workforce periodically regarding safety statements as part of a company’s safety training regime, especially for new employees during a company induction and orientation. Safety statements are a very useful focused tool to look at safety risk and to manage it effectively to secure the business.
Getting any employee on board for any of the health and safety training you have on site is always a great opportunity to jump-start them into behaving safely. Even a simple day training on fire safety or the like can get people into the healthy and safety “zone”. I have often seen employees come back from a good training session all fired up about safety on site. Some even decide to join the safety committee or even do more training, voluntarily! That is success!
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