Four resign from safety watchdog

FOUR of the five members of the National Irish Safety Organisation’s (NISO) management committee have resigned in a row over attempts to reduce the size of the board.

Chief executive Pierce Martin; president George Brett; vice president Jim Jeffers and secretary Paul O’Sullivan, all quit with immediate effect after their efforts to shed board members were blocked.

Mr Martin said the work of the organisation would continue in the short term under its remaining officer, treasurer Jim Shaw, and its full-time staff, but he would not reconsider his departure unless he was allowed to make substantial changes to the way it was structured.

He claimed regional representatives had a disproportionate influence on the board which was hindering the organisation’s work. “The board is made up of 20 people and 16 of them would be appointed by the regions so local issues would tend to dominate,” he said.

“The situation is also open to conflict of interest. We are striving to drive out health and safety programmes in small businesses when some small businesses are also doing this work.”

Mr Martin said ideally the board would have no more than eight or nine members, but he had not even been able to reduce it to a compromise of 12 members with half representing the regions, despite these changes being recommended in a review carried out by consultants, PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC).

The NISO was the forerunner of the Health and Safety Authority, but while the latter is a state agency, NISO is a non-profit organisation funded mainly by fees from safety training courses and seminars, membership subscriptions and sponsorship from the Irish Insurance Federation.

PwC’s report said the organisation had a poor corporate governance structure.

Mr Martin and the resigning officers said: “Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of senior management, little progress has been made in this important area.”

A spokeswoman for Minister for Labour Affairs Billy Kelleher said the minister thanked the four for their commitment in promoting health and safety and wished them well in the future.

An emergency board meeting is expected to take place in the next few days.


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