Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Health and Safety Authority

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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648. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the additional resources deployed to the Health and Safety Authority to ensure it can monitor compliance with Covid-19 recommendations; the grade of the additional workers; the hours of work specifically spent on inspections of the additional workers; the number of hours they are contracted for in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6937/20]

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)
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649. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if consideration has been given to the need for a dedicated hotline for workers who have specific Covid-19 related concerns regarding their health and safety on returning to and continuing to work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6938/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 648 and 649 together.

The national “Return to Work Safely Protocol” provides a clear compliance framework for all places of work to ensure that businesses can re-open and workers can return to work safely. The Protocol was drafted in close consultation with the social partners under the auspices of the Labour and Employer Economic Forum and agreed with them.

Compliance with the Return to Work Safely Protocol is being led by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), who have overall responsibility for ensuring the health, safety and welfare at work of all workers. While the HSA has an overall complement of about 100 in the inspectorate grade, between 60 and 70 of these will initially be deployed across sectors to carry out both spot checks and other inspections to check compliance with the Protocol. The HSA inspectorate will be supplemented significantly by deploying, under the authority of the HSA, other inspectors from across the system who already have an environmental health, agriculture or other workplace/business inspection responsibilities. These will be warranted by me, using powers in the 2005 Act, to carry out COVID-19 inspections under the Protocol, as the economy opens up in line with the Government Roadmap.

As we have seen with the general public health measures over the past two months, most people are complying with the rules. We can expect the same from employers and workers, most of who want to get back to work, and want the workplace to be safe, for them and for the families that they are returning to in the evenings. So I am expecting employers and workers, in line with what is set out in the Protocol, to actively and jointly take responsibility for applying the clear measures set out in the Protocol, for the health and safety of all concerned.

The HSA is deploying all its available inspectors across sectors to carry out both spot checks and other inspections to check compliance with the Protocol. The HSA inspectorate will be supplemented significantly by deploying, under the authority of the HSA, other inspectors from across the system who already have an environmental health, agriculture or other workplace/business inspection responsibilities. As we have seen with the general public health measures over the past two months, most people are complying with the rules. We can expect the same from employers and workers, most of who want to get back to work, and want the workplace to be safe, for them and for the families that they are returning to in the evenings.

Even with the enhanced cohort of inspectors available to the HSA, they cannot be expected to go into every business in the country. That would be entirely unrealistic and unachievable. What they will do is a mix of unannounced inspections, along with providing advice and information through the HSAs Workplace Contact Unit email and phoneline.

The inspectors will be a mix of grades, but all are warranted to carry out inspections under the 2005 Act. The number of hours to be worked by each individual inspector is not possible to compile.

In relation to a dedicated hotline for workers the Health and Safety Authority's workplace contact unit (WCU) is available to answer any queries employers, workers or members of the public may have in regard to all occupational safety and health matters including adherence with the provisions of the National Return to Work Protocol. Additional resources have been made available for the WCU. Workplace contract unit email and phone number wcu@hsa.ie and Tel: 1890 289 389.

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