Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Health and Safety Authority

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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652. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the additional staffing and resources that will be made available to the HSA to ensure that it can carry out widespread inspections of workplaces to ensure compliance with public health measures and social distancing, provision of PPE and sanitiser and to ensure prompt responses to reported breaches of public health guidelines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7022/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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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.

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.

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.

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.

If, following contact from a worker, and follow-up engagement with the employer, they feel that an inspection is warranted, they will follow up with an on-site visit.

Importantly, if, on foot of an inspection, the inspector forms the opinion that further action is required, the appropriate action - up to and including the closure of a workplace - will be taken using the relevant powers. Where relevant, the public health authorities will be involved, and we have already seen this in the case of the meat processing plants.

I am satisfied that the steps that we have taken are giving both employers and employees the confidence to re-open businesses and return to work.

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