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EVERYDAY LAW: Duties in safety and health law

Cecil McCarthy

EVERYDAY LAW: Duties in safety and health law

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The Safety and Health At Work Act 2005 came into effect on January 1, 2013.
In last week’s article I summarized the main duties imposed by the act on employers. However, the act places duties on other categories of persons, such as designers, manufacturers, importers and employees.
For example, Section 6(1) of the act provides:
“It shall be the duty of any person who undertakes the design, importation or manufacture of any article for use at work to carry out or arrange for the carrying out of any necessary research with a view to the discovery and, so far as is reasonably practicable, the elimination or minimization of any risks to health or safety to which the design may give rise.”
Knowledge of and compliance with the provisions of the act are important since persons in breach of the provisions of the legislation may face serious penalties such as fines and imprisonment.
Section 110 of the act sets out the general penalty for a contravention of the legislation.
110(1) “Subject to subsection (2) any person who
(a) contravenes any provision of this act for which no specific penalty is provided; or
(b) contravenes any of the regulations or any order made pursuant to this act, is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction, in the case of an owner or occupier, to a fine of $500 and if the offence continues after such conviction the person convicted is liable to a further fine of $100 for each day in respect of which the offence continues.
(2) If the contravention is the act or omission of the owner or the occupier as the case may be, and causes death or injury that results in permanent injury such owner or occupier is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $5 000 or to imprisonment for a term of 12 months or to both.”
As expected, the major responsibility for health and safety at the workplace is that of the employer. These duties will be explored in greater detail in future articles.
It must also be recognised that general duties are also imposed on employees. These duties are set out in section 9(1) of the act which also provides that a contravention of the subsection is punishable by a fine of $500 or imprisonment for one month or both.  
Under section 9(1) every employee has the duty:
“(a) to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work;
(b) as regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by or under any of the relevant statutory provisions, to co-operate with his employer so far as is necessary to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with;
(c) while at work to report to his employer any contravention under this act, or any regulations made thereunder, the existence of which he knows; and
(d) to use correctly the personal protective clothing or devices provided for his use.”
• Cecil McCarthy is a Queen’s Counsel.