Breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005

A claim for bullying and/or stress can also be grounded in a claim that an employer has breached health & safety legislation. The 2005 Act provides a statutory basis under which employers have a duty to take reasonable care to prevent mental injury in the workplace.  Section 8(2)(b) is the most significant section regarding bullying in that it provides for the management of interpersonal relationships in the workplace –  it provides:

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), the employer’s duty extends, in particular, to the following:…

(b) managing and conducting work activities in such a way as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any improper conduct or behaviour likely to put the safety, health or welfare at work of his or her employees at risk;

The scope of Section 8 of the 2005 Act is examined in the judgment of Charleton J in  Warcaba v. Industrial Temps (Ireland) Ltd, Dublin Airport Authority & Ryanair Ltd [2011] IEHC 489 (in a straightforward personal injuries claim) where he describes section 8 of the Act as expressing what would have been the common law duty of care for employers to employees.

In Sweeney v. Ballinteer Community College [2011] IEHC 131 in examining the Board of Management’s liability in regards to acts of bullying by a principal, the Court found that apart from being vicariously liable for his actions, the Board also had a direct duty of care as her employer under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2005 to “take reasonable care to prevent her suffering mental injury in the workplace as a result of being harassed or bullied by other employees if they knew or ought to have known that such was occurring.”

Section 13 of the Act is also pertinent as this deals with the duties of employees while at work and includes, inter alia, a duties to

(a) comply with the relevant statutory provisions, as appropriate, and take reasonable care to protect his or her safety, health and welfare and the safety, health and welfare of any other person who may be affected by the employee’s acts or omissions at work,

(e) not engage in improper conduct or other behaviour that is likely to endanger his or her own safety, health and welfare at work or that of any other person,

(h) report to his or her employer or to any other appropriate person, as soon as practicable—

      (i) any work being carried on, or likely to be carried on, in a manner which may endanger the safety, health or welfare at work of the employee or that of any other person,

      (ii) any defect in the place of work, the systems of work, any article or substance which might endanger the safety, health or welfare at work of the employee or that of any other person, or

      (iii) any contravention of the relevant statutory provisions which may endanger the safety, health and welfare at work of the employee or that of any other person,

of which he or she is aware.

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