The Health and Safety Authority is a good institution but an odd one. It was established under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. It has as its central purpose, as recited in Section 34 of that Act,
“to promote, encourage and foster the prevention of accidents, dangerous occurrences and personal injury at work in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions”
So, oddly enough, when some customers were killed and injured in the Connacht Gold shop in Longford, the Health and Safety Authority, as it has done before, stretched its remit to investigate the incident. Actually, that is an overstatement; at least one employee was injured in the incident.
The most notable case of the Health and Safety Authority extending its remit (to the benefit of all) was the road accident in May 2005 in which five schoolgirls died when a Bus Eireann bus crashed in a single vehicle accident.
The Authority prosecuted Bus Eireann, Meath County Council and a motor service company for the accident. The anti-braking system on the bus was disabled. The motor service company noted this and left it like that. The county council commenced roadworks at the place of the accident without making a safety plan. These circumstances, mostly the disabling of the ABS, resulted in the accident.
The presence of the bus driver, a Bus Eireann employee, made the bus a workplace and conferred jurisdiction on the Health and Safety Authority.
It would be a good idea to make the jurisdiction of the Health and Safety Authority general and not simply limited to places of work.
It is also time to reform the law on liability of occupiers of premises as laid down in the Occupiers Liability Act 1995.