ISME considers the introduction of an offence of ‘Dangerous activity in public place,’ which would modify the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, to be of some merit, and worthy of further consideration.
However, while ISME accepts that the drafters of the Extreme Weather Bill are well-intentioned, the amendments to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 in this bill would make very bad law and should not be enacted.
The notion that employers would be required to shut all workplaces upon the issue by Met Éireann of a Status Red severe weather warning is not a good idea.
Secondly, the requirement that all workers prevented from going to work because of a Status Red severe weather warning should be treated and paid as if they were at work, takes no account of the financial situation of small and medium enterprises. In many service businesses, the cost of labour can be up to 86% of the cost of sales. Where service is not provided to the customer, there is nothing to pay employees.
Thirdly, the notion that it would fall to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to define those workers whose attendance at work was essential is nonsensical, and flies in the face of the common sense provisions of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act. It would potentially transfer huge employee liabilities to the State.
Lastly, Storm Emma showed just how important certain workers, who would not normally be classified as ‘essential,’ were to us all when the snow came down. Without the services of those bakers, home care workers, truck drivers, soldiers, grocery workers, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, farmers, and media and meteorology professionals who worked through the bad weather, the consequences of Storm Emma for many citizens would have been dramatically worse. It makes no sense to confine them all to home by law, and to ask a Government minister to decide which of them is ‘essential.’
Commenting on this ISME CEO Neil McDonnell said “We cannot regulate everything by law. The personal protection measures set out in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act are effective and sufficient, and should not be amended by this bill”