Tuesday, 31 May 2005
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004: Report and Final Stages.
Before we commence, I remind Senators that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage amendments, except the proposer of an amendment, who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. On Report Stage, each amendment must be seconded.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 11, to delete lines 9 to 12, and substitute the following:
"(b) the collapse or partial collapse of any building or structure under construction or in use as a place of work,
(c) the uncontrolled or accidental release, the escape or the ignition of any substance,
(d) a fire involving any substance, or
(e) any unintentional ignition or explosion of explosives,".
I understand the Government may well accept this amendment. It simply seeks to amplify the terms used in page 11 of the Bill. The terms, as they stand, just refer to materials but the amendment proposes to extend them to include the collapse of a building, a fire involving any substance at all or any unintentional ignition or explosion of explosives. It is well-grounded because the existing definition is too narrow. The amendment is particularly pertinent for me because I remember raising the issue of safety in recent years in respect of an incident in which people were killed in the collapse of a building as a result of an explosion to demolish that building.
One of the general duties of an employer is to report accidents and dangerous occurrences to the Health and Safety Authority. Paragraph (a) of the definition of "dangerous occurrence" relates only to work equipment as far as the proposers of the amendment, among whom I now include myself, are concerned. Unless the definition is tightened, it seems it will not protect workers in the event of the collapse of a building or the explosion of gases, although I am sure this was not the intention of the those who framed it. The amendment seeks to extend the provision so workers will be covered in such circumstances. The collapse of scaffolding would already be covered. I raised this issue after scaffolding collapsed in the Baggot Street area, resulting in the death of at least one worker. Such matters are severe but there is a greater likelihood of injury or death when an entire building collapses. Therefore, I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.
We are but I am merely drawing attention to the principle that if a Senator can, on the Order of Business, draw attention to the Labour Party copying the Government, I can draw attention to the Government copying the Independents. We are grateful that the Government saw sense——
Senator O'Toole tabled this amendment on Committee Stage and we had a discussion thereon. I accepted it was clear that the definition was deficient. However, in the course of discussing the amendment, it became apparent that there was a danger that the words "the uncontrolled or accidental release, the escape or the ignition of any substance" might be deleted by the inclusion of the previous amendment. We can agree on all fronts that amendment No. 1, in the names of Senators O'Toole and Henry, moved today by Senator Norris and seconded by Senator Quinn, strengthens the Bill considerably. I thank them for having brought the issue to our attention and I accept the amendment.
Amendments Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive, are technical. Under some sections, such as section 66(7), pertaining to an appeal against an improvement notice, and section 67(7), pertaining to an appeal against a prohibition notice, it will be necessary to prescribe the procedures and forms of order for cases in the District Court. These are matters that will be prescribed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. These procedural matters should be prescribed by way of rules of court and not by regulations and this is the reason for these technical amendments.
Amendment Nos. 2 and 3 refer to "by regulations made" and amendment No. 4 seeks the insertion of the words "by rules made". All these amendments have the same effect.
In reviewing the Bill, it has come to light that there is a possible inconsistency between the use of the word "undertaking" in section 2(5), which uses the phrase "whether carried on by him or her for profit or not", and the definition of "undertaking" in section 2(1). For this reason it is important that amendments Nos. 5 and 6 be accepted. I am concerned that the Bill will cover all types of workplaces and the amendments will ensure this.
This amendment was discussed on Committee Stage in reference to an amendment tabled by Senator Coghlan and proposed by Senator Cummins. I indicated on Committee Stage that I believed there might be a need for a very minor amendment to their proposal. It involved the inclusion of the word "another". Amendment No. 7 basically accepts and clarifies Senator Coghlan's proposal.
I take this opportunity to thank the Cathaoirleach and Members of the Seanad for their co-operation during the passage of the Bill through this House, and in particular for drawing our attention to the deficiencies addressed by the amendments which have been accepted. I also want to thank the officials of the Department for their help in the course of the Bill, as well as everybody who contributed.
I thank the Minister of State and his officials as regards this very important piece of legislation. It is crucial because the health, safety and welfare of people at work are so important. Legislation has been introduced and much work has been done by the Minister and his officials over the years in taking on board so many new health and safety regulations in the workplace. It is a Bill that may well have to be revisited at a later stage as we find out that there could be some shortfalls or anomalies within legislation. That is something, in the event, that we must be prepared to return to and sort out immediately.
I thank the Minister of State and his officials for this very necessary measure. I thank the Minister of State for accepting some of the amendments we believe to be worthy, which were tabled on Committee Stage. I also thank the Minister of State and the officials for the improvements wrought on one of those amendments. It was a pleasure doing business with the Minister of State and well done to all concerned.