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All but six local council offices found in breach of safety rules

A series of inspections was carried out last year

Judicial action will be imposed against those councils that have failed to pay the fines. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Judicial action will be imposed against those councils that have failed to pay the fines. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

All but six of the existing 68 local councils have been fined or are facing judicial action after it was found that their offices were “in breach” of occupational health and safety legislation.

The non-compliance was flagged during a series of inspections carried out by the Occupational Health and Safety Authority last year as part of an awareness campaign.

Details of the crackdown were divulged in the 2017 OHSA annual report.

It notes that following various initiatives such as seminars and the development of an extensive guide of good practices, on-site visits were carried out in which the most important health and safety obligations were explained to the executive secretary in the presence of the mayor.

Subsequently, letters were sent by the OHSA highlighting the deficiencies and follow-up meetings were organised. The focus was on the obligation to carry out a risk assessment exercise, the appointment of workers’ health and safety representatives, fire-fighting equipment, emergency drills, the provision and use of personal protective equipment, certification of lifts, first aid arrangements and the safe use of computer screens.

Of the 62 councils found “in breach” of legislation just 20 councils paid the fines, while judicial action would be imposed against those councils which had failed to do so.

However, the names of those councils were not divulged.

In its review the OHSA said that the downward trend registered in recent years in both the number and, more significantly, the rate of industrial injuries had continued. Since 2002, fatal accidents at work had dropped from 2.9 per 100,000 workers to 0.5, while injuries had declined from 3,579 per 100,000 workers in 2002 to 1,692 in 2017.

In total, there were 3,182 occupational injuries last year, which resulted in a period of sick leave.

An analysis was also carried out of the so-called high-risk industries, such as quarrying, in terms of occupational accidents. In the latter sector, all of the 16 operational quarries were inspected, but only three kept an accident record register.

The names of the councils that failed to pay were not divulged

While they all carried out systematic and sufficient risk assessments, in several instances the findings of these exercises were not followed up. The OHSA said that in some cases insufficient training was provided to workers, while equipment maintenance and regular testing left much to be desired.

Similarly, deficiencies were found regarding the provision of first aid facilities and workers.

On a positive note, all operational quarries had installed adequate measures against falls from heights and provided adequate welfare facilities in the majority of cases and suitable protective clothing. Nonetheless, legal action has been taken against all defaulters.

The report notes that in 2017, 555 letters of intimation for the demand of fines were issued by the OHSA and a total revenue of €184,250 was expected.

During this period the authority collected €123,500, the discrepancy being due to the fact that contraveners are allowed to make staggered payments.

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