The Truck Acts were one of the earliest pieces of labour legislation. They were aimed at the common practice of employers paying wages in kind by way of tokens, food, clothing or other non-cash form. They might, for example, only be spent in shops owned by the factory owner. A wide range of abuses was possible.
The Truck Act, 1831 repealed this legislation, requiring that workers be paid in cash. Truck Act 1887 extended legislation to all persons engaged in manual labour, other than domestic servants. The Truck Act, 1896 allowed deductions for misconduct and bad workmanship provided they were fair and reasonable. The legislation was enforced by the Inspector of Factories.
The Factory and Workshop Act, 1901, consolidated and updated 19th-century factories legislation. It remained the principal piece of legislation until the Factories Act, 1955.
Factories covered most places for manufacturing and related processes, carried on with or without power. The scope of the legislation was gradually extended from poor factories with mechanical power to a wider range of premises. Legislation extended the Factories Act to include laundry stocks and warehouses.
It requires that factories and workshops must be kept clean, properly ventilated and not overcrowded. Minimum temperature was required to be maintained, wet floors must be drained and adequate sanitary conveniences provided.
Dangerous machinery and parts of machinery were required to be fenced and examined periodically. Particularly dangerous equipment such as boilers were required to be examined periodically and certified. There are provisions for notification of accidents and diseases.
Provision was made for the making of statutory regulations, dealing with particular dangerous and unhealthy industry. Factory owners and occupiers were required to obtain medical certificates of fitness for employment of young persons under 16. It was prohibited to employ women for a period of four weeks after childbirth.
List of outworkers doing homework was required. Working on unwholesome premises on which there was a disease, infectious disease risk was forbidden.
The Factory and Workshops Act 1907 brought commercial laundries under the general legislation.
The White Phosphorus Matches Prohibition Act prohibited the use of white and yellow phosphorus in the manufacture of matches and their sale and importation.
The Police, Factories (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1916 provided for making of general orders known as welfare orders requiring occupiers of factories and workshops provide for the health and comfort of workers.
The Women and Young Persons (Employment in Lead Processes) Act 1920 gave effect to an International Labour Convention.
Irish Free State
When the Irish Free State was established and Ireland was admitted to the League of Nations, it became a member of the International Labour Organization automatically.
The Minister for Transport was responsible for administering under the Railways Act 1925, matters affecting the health and safety of train drivers.
The Conditions of Employment Act, 1936 made a provision for conditions of employment for workers in industrial work. It made significant changes in relation to hours of work, overtime, shift work, public holidays and annual leave with pay. It made provisions for men, women and young persons.
The 1936 legislation applied to all industrial work, which did not include agriculture, commercial or domestic work nor mining. It did include construction, reconstruction, maintenance of any railway, pier, harbour, canal, electrical undertaking, gas work as well as the production and distribution of gas, generation and transmission of electricity.
The hours of work of which an adult man, women or young person could undertake work were controlled. Aa maximum of nine hours per day and 48 hours per week ending at 8 p.m. on ordinary days and 1 p.m. on the short day was prescribed. Women were not to commence work before 8 a.m. An eight-hour day and 40 hour week applied to younger person .
Overtime was allowed in each cases with restrictions on women and young persons, prohibiting night work. Overtime may be worked up to two hours on every day, 12 in a week or 240 in a year or 36 in any four-week period. Differing overtime limits applied to young persons.
Shift working other than in certain industries was forbidden, unless a continuous process. Normally it was requires to be carried out without intermission, or for periods not less than 15 hours at a time without intermission or by way of a shift work licence granted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
The 1936 legislation provided for breaks during the course of the working day. An interval of at least half an hour was required after continuous work period of five hours. Saturday was a short working day for industrial undertakings. Another day other than a Sunday could be prohibited.
Inspectors where empowered to enforce the Conditions of Employment legislation. Prosecutions were taken by the Minister,; they could also be undertaken at the suit of a worker or trade union. The Conditions of Employment Act, 1944 included fishing in the legislation.
The Night Work (Bakeries) Acts, 1936 and 1981 prohibit baking of bread at night other than under a licence.
Six public holidays were provided by the Act, Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter Monday, Whit Monday and the first Monday in August.
On giving at least one months notice in writing, an employer may substitute the days concerned. Employment on Sunday was generally prohibited save in specified industries such as newspaper and creameries. A person employed on Sunday must be allowed 24 hours continuous rest at one point in the week.
Annual leave with pay was first introduced by the 1936 Act. It was extended by the Holidays (Employees) Act, 1939 to an adult worker with more than 1800 hours in a year, 1500 hours in the case of a young person, who is entitled to seven consecutive days of leave with pay.
The 1936 Act prohibited employment of boys and girls under 14. Proof of age was required for boys and girls between 14 and 18.
The Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1996 regulated the employment of young persons. It provides for the minimum age in case of — for prescription of minimum age by a ministerial order in relation to certain industries.
The Apprenticeship Act, 1931 provided for regulating apprenticeships, means of rules adopted by committees. The Committees were comprised of equal numbers of employers and workers in the relevant trade and chaired by an independent person appointed by the Minister.
The Committee had power to make rules governing the registration of apprentices, classes of employment constituting apprenticeship, periods of apprenticeship, minimum rates, wages and maximum hours of work. The Committee may make other rules including those governing educational qualifications, age of entry, ratio of apprentices to skilled workers. The legislation was established in a number of industries including brush and broom, furniture, house painting and hairdressing.
The Joint Labour Committee was established under the Industrial Relations Act 1946 were given wider powers in the earlier Trade Boards they replaced. Joint Labour Committees comprising of equal number of members of employers and employees and an independent Chairman were established in a number of industries pursuant to employment regulation order. They made special terms and provisions applicable to the employments concerned.
Modern Factories Act
The Factories Act 1955, consolidated and modernize the factories legislation. Department of Labour was established in  and its inspectorate enforced the legislation. Legislation covered the manufacturing industry, construction and a range of work places, including docks, quays, warehouses, electrical stations and training establishments. It covered approximately 20% of workplaces.
An abstract of the conditions of employment in factories legislation was required to be exhibited in a workplace. There must be a factory register giving the names of young persons under 16 employed and certificates of fitness.
The Mines and Quarries Act, 1965 came into force in 1970, covering all mines and quarries, but not exploration activities.
The Dangerous Substances Act, 1972 and 1979 provide for protection of hazards associated with dangerous substances.
The Nuclear Energy Act 1971 envisaged regulation of radioactive substances.
Until the establishment of the National Authority for Occupational Health and Safety, now the Health and Safety Authority, the supervisory body for the legislation was the Industrial Inspectorate of the Department of Labour. This had a number of inspectors including engineers. There was a medical services unit. The inspectorate was centralised in Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Athlone and Drogheda with headquarters in Dublin.
Local authorities and health boards shared responsibility for implementation of the Shops (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1938 and 1942 and Office Premises Act, 1958.
The Explosives Act 1875 was administered by the Inspector of Explosive and the Department of Justice. The Mercantile Marine Office and Marine Survey Service of the Department of Transfer responsible for safety and welfare at sea legislation.
Office Premises Act
The Office Premises Act apply to all premises on which persons were employed in clerical work. This includes bookkeeping, sorting, and filing, typing, documentary production, handling of mail, telephone, telegraph operating, handling of money. It required daily removal of dirt and waste, no overcrowding, reasonable temperature, effective ventilation and lighting. Arrangements were to be made to avoid discomfort and glare. Sanitary conveniences were to be provided.
Floor, steps, stairs, lifts and passage ways are to be of sound construction and properly maintained. Supply of adequate and wholesome drinking water was required. There must be adequate, clean and orderly washing facilities, suitable sitting facilities for sanitary type work and first aid facilities. The Safety in the Industry Act 1908 extended the definition of a factory to include premises where slaughter houses.
It prescribed general duties for manufacturers in relation to work plant. It modernised provisions in relation to temperature, accommodations for meals, washing facilities, cleaning of machineries, protection, removal of dust, fire drills, fire safety.
The Barrington Report, 1983 undertook a comprehensive review of health, safety and welfare legislation. It recommended comprehensive legislation applicable to all workplaces, to substitute the piece meal nature of the existing regulation. In broad terms, it followed the England and Wales 1974 legislation.
The 1989 Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act established a National Authority for Occupational Safety and Welfare at Work, now the HSA.The legislation provided appointment of safety representatives and safety committees. It provided for safety statements.
The 1989 Act, following on the Barrington Report was an outbreak of the modern system of health safety and welfare legislation. t established the National Authority for Occupational Safety and Health. This later became the Health and Safety Authority. The responsibility for enforcement of legislation was moved from the Department of Labour to the Authority.
It provided for general duties and is largely replicated by the 2005 legislation.The approach of legislation is largely repeated in the 2005 Act which is the present law.
The Factory Acts and the enormous amount of regulations made under them where phased out over the first 10 years of operation of the Authority. Eventually, almost all of the the older more specific legislation was revoked and new legislation in some places substituted under the 1989 legislation.