Employers have an obligation to provide a safe place of work for all of their employees, as well as to ensure that no members of the public are endangered by their activities. When an employee breaches health and safety legislation or the health and safety policy of the company, the employer must always take this conduct seriously. Failure to do so can leave the employer open to both civil and criminal liability.
The workplace should have a Health and Safety Policy in place, that relates to the particular risks for that workplace. This document should be completed after a risk assessment and should be regularly reviewed. Closely related is the Disciplinary Policy. The employer must always follow the procedures laid out in its own policy and must ensure that fair procedures are utilised when dealing with unsafe conduct by an employee.
On occasion it may be necessary to dismiss an employee for unsafe conduct in the workplace, but this must be considered on a case to case basis to avoid claims for unfair dismissal. The more safety critical the workplace, the greater the case for dismissal on the first breach of the health and safety policy. The seriousness of the offense must be considered as well as the company’s own ethos around health and safety.
It may be the case that the employer will be justified in reassigning a worker or suspending them with pay during the course of an investigation into conduct, if it is shown that keeping the employee in their role for any further period could be health an safety risk. This is not a decision to be taken lightly for an employer.
To avoid issues arising, a company should ensure it has a robust and appropriate Health and Safety Policy, a fair Disciplinary Policy, regularly reviewed risk assessments and staff who have regular and thorough training in respect of workplace safety.
We at Fitzsimons Redmond would be delighted to work with you and you business to tailor appropriate policies and procedures around health and safety. Please call us on 01- 6763257 if you would like to discuss options for your business.
By Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty
Solicitor at Fitzsimons Redmond