The Director General (DG) of the HSE Mr John Connaghan admitted the problem in correspondence about staff health and safety to the Chair of the HSE’s Risk Committee Dr Sheelah Ryan in June.
In a letter to the then DG Mr Tony O’Brien on 17 January 2018, seen by this newspaper through Freedom of Information legislation, Dr Ryan stated that the Risk Committee was concerned there was a gap between the Corporate Safety Statement (CSS) and its practical implementation throughout the system.
This included a “deficit in the performance management framework in relation to CSS responsibility”.
The Committee recommended that the risk rating on the Corporate Risk Register should be reviewed by the HSE to ensure it accurately reflects the level of risks in relation to staff health and safety.
Also, Dr Ryan requested that the HSE Human Resources (HR) Directorate considers how the deficit in compliance with statutory and mandatory staff health and safety training is impacting on patient safety.
She added that the Committee was advised there is a lack of, and delays to, information being provided to the HR Directorate in relation to staff health and safety.
The Risk Committee suggested that operational responsibility for staff health and safety be included in written delegations and job descriptions of all managers, including clinical managers.
In his response on 6 June, Mr Connaghan said the HSE’s National Health and Safety Function (NHSF) training team has experienced some “internal difficulties” since its establishment.
“Data indicates a considerable shortfall in terms of uptake on certain statutory H&S [Health and Safety] training courses — even those that are readily accessible through the contract or e-learning… Consequently, this may have a potential impact on staff and service users, however there is no direct objective evidence to this effect,” according to Mr Connaghan.
He added that a more formal arrangement with the Quality Assurance and Verification Division of the HSE will be put in place to examine any measurable impact on patient safety and quality.
“In terms of the national resource for supporting the delivery of statutory OSH [Occupational Safety and Health] training… this will be reviewed later in 2018 as part of the workforce planning process following the restoration of existing resources… and the establishment of the local CHO [Community Healthcare Organisation] health and safety officers,” according to Mr Connaghan.
The NHSF team falls under the Workplace Health and Wellbeing Unit of the HR Directorate.
The aim of the team is to provide centralised support to allow managers and staff to discharge their legal and moral duties with regard to occupational safety and health management.