Wednesday, 11 October 2006
Health and Safety Regulations.
Question 13: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will recognise voluntary protection programmes such as the pilot one conducted by the Health and Safety Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31642/06]
The voluntary protection programme is an initiative in workplace safety which has its origins in an EU-USA meeting on safety in the workplace and was introduced to Ireland in 2004 as a joint pilot initiative between the Health and Safety Authority and the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland. Since the pilot initiative was established, four companies have achieved the star safety rating that is the initial goal for the participating companies.
The outcome of the pilot initiative is currently being evaluated by the board of the Health and Safety Authority, which is statutorily responsible for the enforcement of health and safety legislation in Ireland. I have not made any commitment to recognise the voluntary protection programme in workplaces in Ireland. This would be a matter for the Health and Safety Authority.
All workplaces should be models of good practice and leadership in terms of management but that is not the case. Does the Minister of State accept this is not the case partially because the inspectorate is inadequate? Until we get there, surely recognising schemes like voluntary protection programmes would encourage employers to move towards providing a better environment and better work practices. This initiative, which the Health and Safety Authority has rightly taken on, should be recognised by the Department. Does the Minister of State agree that such recognition would encourage greater safety in workplaces?
A number of initiatives have been undertaken by the Health and Safety Authority in conjunction with various sectors in respect of employment and health and safety in the workplace. We must bear in mind that this project is a pilot project and has not yet been evaluated by the board of the Health and Safety Authority. In the first instance, it appears sensible to conduct this evaluation and see what it comes up with.
It is also important to remember that this scheme is an attempt to reward exceptional standards, rather than mere compliance. In general, the principle is one which is very worthy and of which we would be supportive. However, in the interim we should await the evaluation by the board of the Health and Safety Authority before further action is taken.
At that stage, it will be a matter for the Health and Safety Authority, the board of which consists of representatives of the social partners, to consider the possible benefits and whether it might run with this initiative in the future.