Environmental Digital Journalist

June 17, 2022

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Workplace injury

Workplace injury: What does this mean for employers in Ireland?

Under health and safety legislation, every employer has a duty of care to their employees and self-employed people working for the business to provide a safe work environment. But accidents still happen, and employers in Ireland need to be prepared for what a workplace injury could mean for their team and business reputation, particularly given the updates to legislation and work processes in recent years. 

Understanding the law on workplace injury 

wet floorIn most cases, accidents in the workplace are entirely avoidable and yet thousands of people are injured at work. Not only does this impact the lives of individuals but it also costs the economy billions every year in absences through injury or illnesses that could have been prevented. “The scope of an employer’s duty of care falls under four principal headings, with an employer being obliged to provide his workforce with competent co-workers, a safe place of work, proper equipment which is fit for purpose, and a safe system of work”, explain McCarthy + Co. Solicitors.

Compensation from workers for non-fatal workplace injuries costs businesses billions every year, through lost productivity, repairs or replacements of damaged equipment and property, and the implementation of corrective measures. It’s also something that impacts public image and compliance with legal standards. With the pandemic shifting how we work, the ways in which employers in Ireland are liable could also have changed. 

How does remote work play a role?

Now that remote working is part of so many businesses’ operations, employers have expressed concerns about how much they’ll be liable for accidents that occur in remote work locations, whether that’s a coworking space or a home office. The concerns have been raised as part of the National Remote Work Strategy, but experts agree that legislative change needs to occur to protect both employers and employees.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar stated that the pandemic transformed the world of work forever, and while the changes are for the most part positive, they also pose risks. Remote working poses a risk to employees’ mental health, stress and feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as overworking due to difficulties in switching off.

Employers aren’t just responsible for preventing physical injuries, but they also have a duty in the reasonable prevention of work-related stress injuries too. If an employer notices an employee is exposed to stress and fails to act, they could be liable if their staff suffers a stress-related work injury.

The Health and Safety Authority defines this as arising when the ‘demands of the job and the working environment of a person exceeds their capacity to meet them’. Anything from poor communication and poor working relationships to faulty work organisation, ill-defined work roles and highly demanding tasks can affect stress in the workplace. 

Updated to legislation for vehicles used for work

In Ireland, vehicles are involved in up to 50% of all work-related deaths reported to the HSA, and over a five-year period, 4,944 accidents involved a work-related vehicle. With under-reporting an issue, the true figure is believed to be as much as three times higher than this. 

The Health and Safety Executive, in conjunction with the UK Department of Transport, also recently updated its guidance on work-related road safety, making it clearer to employers that they are responsible for privately-owned vehicles used for work purposes. The guidance has been changed to reflect the rise of the gig economy and the number of workers who use their own vehicles for work.

This guidance confirms that an employer is responsible for ensuring the transport used for work is properly maintained, that the employee has appropriate protective equipment, and that the driver hours are kept within limits to protect individuals from injury. 

How can employers respond appropriately?

Employers need to stay up to date on the latest guidance in order to protect their staff from workplace injuries, both physical and mental. Employers have obligations not only to their own staff but also to self-employed individuals who may be working on their premises. 

To avoid accidents and injuries from occurring, employers need to identify potential hazards in the workplace and assess these risks regularly, implementing control measures and reviewing their safety statement as often as possible to ensure it still aligns with best practises. Injuries in the workplace don’t just cause issues for the employee; they are costly for the business and harm public reputation and brand image. 

Retaining a safe workplace and ensuring processes are in place to protect staff, wherever they’re working from, should be a priority for all business owners to avoid any unfortunate events in the future.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


Related Topics

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments