History of NISO

The National Irish Safety Organisation (NISO) proudly celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2013.

This achievement would not have been possible without the dedication of volunteers, supported by NISO’s Secretariat and, prior to becoming self-funded, the various governmental organisations and institutions that supported NISO. 

NISO exists thanks to the commitment of its members. 

NISO’s members have all played a part in ensuring that NISO remains an active organisation, constantly adapting to the changing conditions in the Occupational Health and Safety landscape to remain relevant.

Below is an overview of NISO in the context of Irish Health and Safety Legislation and some significant dates.

Creation of NISO

The National Industrial Safety Organisation, as NISO was then known, was founded on 15 January 1963, 8 years after the introduction of the Factories Act of 1955.

Enforcement was widely held as the way to reduce the large number of industrial accidents so the legislation was prescriptive.

The Factories Advisory Council (FAC) [1] was set up at the same time in part to organise and promote safety and welfare through education, exhibition and the dissemination of information through posters, pamphlets and films.

FAC lacked resources and funds to carry out their remit and recommended to the Minister the set up a voluntary organisation that could address the disappointing number of safety committees set up and the unacceptable high number of industrial accidents.

The Minister initiated discussions between the then Federated Union of Employers, the Congress of Trade Unions and the Accident Offices Association of Insurers represented on the Council.  This led to the formation of NISO that became open not only to organisations but also to individual members who could join to study and promote health and safety.

The First Terms of Reference for NISO

  • Study safety measures in various industries and occupations and issue advisory material measures to reduce accidents.
  • Promote Safety Committees in industry and assist them to perform their functions in the most effective manner.
  • Supply appropriate propaganda material to Safety Committees including posters, pamphlets, films and film-strips.
  • Assist the organisation of training courses for Safety Officers.
  • Arrange for the exchange of information, advice and assistance between industrial groups and organisations interested in the promotion of safety at work.

First Achievements

NISO published a booklet on safety committees to generate interest and understanding.  This helped to iron out any common misconceptions among both employees and employers about their roles and functions.

Funded in part by the government and in part by an increasing number of members, NISO pioneered other initiatives:

  • creation of policies;
  • recruitment of members;
  • setting up of local branches and regional committees;
  • introduction of training and educational courses.

NISO Timeline

1955-1988
  • 1955 – Factories Act, 1955. The first comprehensive Irish safety legislation.  Introduced many sets of standards enforced by factory inspectors.
  • 1959 – Creation of the Factories Advisory Council (FAC).
  • 1961 – FAC recommended the establishment of a voluntary body representative of the social partners, government, employers and workers’ unions to promote occupational safety and health. A provisional committee was set up to do this.
  • 1963 – The National Industrial Safety Organisation was launched on 15 January. Mr Patrick Lynch, a civil servant in the department of Industry and Commerce, was NISO’s first administrative secretary.
  • 1963 – 1968 – 1st NISO President, Mr Benedict Daly.
  • 1963 – NISO fulfilled its education remit by running seminars, showing safety films and publishing and distributing safety booklets and posters.  It also provided lectures and workshops in company and ran courses on request.
  • 1964 – NISO held its first annual conference. Featuring both Irish and international contributors and speakers, it was well attended and is still a premier event on Irish calendars.
  • 1965 – Mines and Quarries Act, 1965.
  • 1965 – NISO’s first AGM took place.
  • 1966 – NISO concentrated on broadening its contacts and increasing its sources of information at home and abroad. It became the national CIS (the International Labour Office (ILO) Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre (CIS)) for the Republic of Ireland.
  • 1966 – On 13 July, the department of labour was established.  Safety in industry matters became the responsibility of the Minister for Labour.  The first minister for Labour was Dr P.J. Hillery T.D. who later became Uachtarán na hÉireann.  The Factory Inspectorate with an administrative backup and NISO was transferred to this new department.
  • 1968  1982 – Mr Des Gaffney, NISO President.
  • 1968 – Northern Ireland Industrial Safety group and NISO held their first joint meetings in Ballymascanlon House hotel near Dundalk.  This started a close collaboration that led to the creation of joint events – the All Ireland Safety Quiz and the prestigious All Ireland Safety Awards.
  • 1968 – The first issue of a bimonthly journal called Sciath was published and distributed to affiliate members of NISO.
  • 1969 – NISO’s grant increased from £2,000 to £10,000 by way of a vote from the Finance Bill.
  • 1972 – European Communities Act, 1972.
  • 1972 – Dangerous Substances Act, 1972.
  •  1974 – Pat Storan organised the first Occupational Safety Quiz in the Midwest region.
  • Between 1974 and 1979 the quiz took place in the Munster region.
  • 1974 – In May, NISO hosted the 7th World Congress on the Prevention of Occupational Accidents and Diseases.
  • 1979 – The First All Ireland Safety Quiz was held at the Greenhills hotel in Limerick.
  • 1979 – Dangerous Substances Act,1979.
  • 1980 – NISO contributed to the development of the Safety in Industry Act, 1980, which amended the Factories Act 1955.  It improved working conditions by adding the obligation on employers to provide and implement an adequate safety statement and make precise the role and functions of safety representatives and safety committees.
  • 1982-1987 – Mr Pat Storan, NISO President.
  • 1983 –  Mr Justice Barrington chaired a commission of inquiry and published a report on 14 July 1983 entitled, Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Safety, Health and Welfare at Work.
  • There was a consensus that the current legislation had two main shortcomings: it did not apply to all places of work and it had failed to reduce accident levels.
  • 1987 – 1990 – Mr Donal O’Sullivan, NISO President.
  • 1988 –  A Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill was implemented and paved the way to the 1989 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act that led to the creation of the HSA.
  • 1988 – NISO launched the First Occupational Safety and Health Foundation course in Ireland.

1989-Present
  • 1989 – On 8 February 1989 during a Dáil Debate Mr Wyse asked Mr Bertie Ahern, then minister for Labour, “the steps he intends taking to encourage employers in a drive against cancer in the workplace”.
  • Mr B. Ahern replied “The European Commission has designated 1989 as European Year against Cancer. As part of their 1989 activities directed towards protecting the safety and health of workers, the industrial inspectorate and occupational medical service of my Department will be highlighting in a special programme for employers and workers the manner in which substances, which are used at work and could cause cancer, should be controlled and used.
  • …NISO in conjunction with my Department and co-operation with the Irish Cancer Society have developed a more general cancer prevention information programme which will also be relevant to workers who share equally with the wider population risks from general life-style cancers. This joint programme was launched last November and [1769] has already visited all regions with the objective of increasing awareness of European Year Against Cancer and also to let persons and bodies know what information, advice and resources are available for cancer prevention programmes.” [3]
  • 1989 – On 9 February 1989, during a Dáil debate on the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill, 1988, Mr John Dennehy, T.D., paid tribute to NISO. He said: “There must always be at least one individual specifically assigned to the area of safety. I do not just mean policing legislation and hounding people about wearing safety helmets, I mean engaging in research to ensure that every work practice is constantly questioned, that materials used are constantly checked, that there is ongoing research into less hazardous materials and ways of working and generally promoting safety.
  • Up to now much of that has been done voluntarily by members of the National Industrial Safety Organisation. I was involved with them through safety quizzes and the State could not compensate them for their work up to now. They worked in areas where there was a shortage of legislation in a purely voluntary capacity with total commitment in their efforts to improve the safety record in industry.
  • We can build on what they have achieved. I highly commend their industrial safety quiz to all companies because it ensures that employees who participate in it will get a knowledge totally outside their own work.
  • They will learn about first aid, electricity and various other matters which will benefit them. The efforts of NISO should be supported and encouraged.” [4]
  • 1989 – On 1 November 1989 the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) was established under the terms of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989 (SHWW Act 1989).
  • The HSA administers and enforces health and safety at work in Ireland with a notable distinction, the legislation is now enabling and written to create the mechanisms to enable workers to do the work.  The SHWW Act 1989 sets out broad general duties of care for all employers, employees and the self-employed and introduced the “safety statement”, a document employers are required to compile to show they have developed and implemented appropriate safety policies and procedures for their workplaces.
  • Those general duties of care involve the provision of a safe place of work, safe plant and equipment and safe system of work. Other requirements include giving those at risk adequate training and information about the relevant hazards and the steps taken to deal with them.
  • NISO Secretariat, the Factory Inspectorate and the administrative backup were transferred to the new organisation. This proved a turning point to NISO as its activities expanded and now covered other sectors of activity such as farming, fishing, hospitals and the growing service industry.
  • 1990s – The Occupational Safety Awards Scheme was introduced to encourage organisations to submit a paper-based assessment of their health and safety systems. They compete for a coveted Safety Award and aspire to win the prestigious Supreme Award.  NISO’s role and future was discussed with the Health and Safety Authority.
  • 1990 – 1992 – Mr Jim Fitzgerald, NISO President
  • 1992 – 1997 – Mr Diarmuid Devereux, NISO President
  • 1992 – NISO initiated Safety at Work Awareness Week that was soon taken up by Europe. The HSA now coordinates its organisational committee.
  • 1992 – Discussions with the HSA resulted in the National Industrial Safety Organisation becoming the National Irish Safety Organisation with a limited liability status. NISO became independent from the Health and Safety Authority and a self-financing organisation.
  • Civil servants in NISO secretariat were replaced by staff hired from the private sector including Mr Ted O’Keeffe, NISO’s current General Manager.  Since then, the Executive Committee has been elected at the AGM.
  • 1997 – 2000 – Mr Paul Kerrigan, NISO President.
  • 1997 – Organisation of Working Time Act, 1977.
  • 1997 – Chemical Weapons Act, 1997.
  • 1998 – Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road Act, 1998.
  • 2000–  2002 – Ms Mary Keane Broderick, NISO President.
  • 2002 – NISO moves to its own offices in Ballymount, Dublin 12. It includes office space, a warehouse, a canteen and two well equipped training rooms.
  • 2002  2004 – Mr Alan Thompson, NISO President.
  • 2004 – 2006 – Mr Bill Kelly, NISO President.
  • 2005 – Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005.
  • 2006 –  2007 – Mr John O’Shaughnessy, NISO President.
  • 2007  2008 – Mr George Brett, NISO President.
  • 2007 – The quarterly magazine NISO Update is launched and is distributed to NISO members. At first a paper based magazine, it has been delivered electronically since 2009.
  • 2007 – Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act (General Application Regulations), 2007.
  • 2008 – 2016 – Mr Pauric Corrigan, NISO President.
  • 2008 and 2010 – Chemicals Act, 2008 and 2010.
  • 2009 – In March, NISO became a registered training organisation with FETAC and started offering training courses accredited to their standards.
  • 2013 – NISO’s 50th Anniversary.
  • NISO’s 13th President, Mr Pauric Corrigan says: “Some may say 13 is unlucky, however, as the 13th president in the 50th year of this great organisation, I am proud to say I am a member of NISO and honoured to have been elected to the office of president. As NISO commemorates the past, we look forward to the future and look forward to meeting our members at NISO events throughout the year.”
  • 2015 – NISO celebrates the 25th Anniversary year of the HSA by hosting a joint Health and Safety Conference which took place over two days in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. Michael D. Higgins, Uachtarán na hÉireann, was in attendance at this special event.
  • 2016 – Mr. Harry Galvin, NISO President.
  • 2016 – NISO and NISG celebrate the 25th Anniversary Jubilee Year of the All Ireland Safety Awards in Killarney, Co. Kerry.

This short history of NISO was compiled with the help of various sources

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