HSE fined €10,000 following guilty plea to ‘violence and aggression’ charges

27th April 2022 

Today, Wednesday 27th April, at Trim Circuit Court, the Health Service Executive (HSE) pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and were fined €10,000 plus costs of €13,000 in front of Judge Terence O’Sullivan.  

The case arose following an investigation by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) into a serious incident of violence and aggression at the workplace resulting in the assault of a number of nurses by a patient. The incident occurred on 29th August 2016 at the Department of Psychiatry, Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, Co. Meath.  

The HSE pleaded guilty that there was no adequate assessment, documenting, communicating and management of risks to the safety, health and welfare of employees in the Navan Unit arising from the known hazard of violence and aggression from high-risk patients. As a consequence, nursing staff suffered personal injuries being thus in breach of Section 8(1) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 as it relates to Section 8(2)(a).  

The HSE also pleaded guilty to failing to manage and conduct work activities, specifically the operation of the Psychiatric Unit, in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of employees.  

The guilty plea related to the fact that there was no emergency response team to respond to the activation by employees of their personal alarms in circumstances where the staff of the Navan Unit were unable on their own to contain violence and aggression from high risk patients.  Also, there was no security guard and there were no magnetic doors operated by a swipe card system that would have allowed segregation and containment of high risk patients.  As a consequence of these failures, nurses suffered personal injuries. 

Mark Cullen, Assistant Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority, said, “Where there is a known risk of violence and aggression in a workplace, employers have a duty to ensure that the appropriate precautions are in place and staff are protected. Failure by the HSE to do so in this case led to serious injuries for the staff concerned.”