Written answers

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Health and Safety Authority

Patricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
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403. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of HSA inspectors recruited to date in 2020; the number expected to be recruited in 2020; the number of inspectors at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10609/20]

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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405. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if the HSA will proactively monitor and enforce social distancing measures in restaurants, cafes and pubs when they reopen; if the HSA will assign a number of officers to monitoring these sites specifically; if so, the number; and if additional guidance will be issued to pubs which back onto residential streets in order to prevent groups gathering near homes. [11276/20]

Photo of Gerald NashGerald Nash (Louth, Labour)
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434. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of additional HSA inspectors her Department has hired and redeployed, respectively, to regulate and enforce the Return to Work Safely Protocol; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11223/20]

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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444. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the additional resources that will be provided to the HSA to assist the agency to carry out its functions, including workplace inspections, in order to ensure business compliance with public health and safety guidelines as workplaces set to reopen following the Covid-19 pandemic; if she has received a formal request from the HSA for additional resourcing to coincide with the Covid-19 reopening; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11324/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 403, 405, 434 and 444 together.

The national Return to Work Safely Protocol should be used by all workplaces, including restaurants, cafés and pubs in due course, to adapt their workplace procedures and practices to comply fully with the Covid-19 related public health protection measures identified as necessary by the HSE and the Department of Health. It is operating in parallel with existing workplace health and safety statutory requirements. The Protocol sets out in very clear terms for employers and workers in all business sectors the steps that they must take both before a workplace reopens and on an ongoing basis. The Health and Safety Authority is the lead agency in monitoring adherence to the national Return to Work Safely Protocol.

In terms of staff numbers, the Health and Safety Authority has a total staff complement of 182 which is made up of staff in administration and inspector grades. Of the 109 inspectors currently in the Authority across all grades, 67 inspectors have been made available to inspect on foot of the Return to Work Safely Protocol. This number covers both existing field inspectors as well as others redeployed internally from their existing roles.

In terms of monitoring adherence to the Protocol the Health and Safety Authority inspectorate is being supplemented significantly by deploying other inspectors from across the system who already have an environmental health, agriculture or other workplace/business inspection responsibilities. These resources are being drawn from the Workplace Relations Commission, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Environmental Health Officers employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE). This will result in an additional 500 or so inspectors checking compliance with the protocol as part of their normal inspection programme. Furthermore, seven staff from my Department have been seconded to the Workplace Contact Unit of the Health and Safety Authority to assist the Authority in managing phone and email queries about the Return to Work Safely Protocol.

To date in 2020, the Health and Safety Authority has recruited seven Inspectors and there are currently 11 vacancies which it is intending to fill in the coming months. The Department maintains close contact with the HSA and will be engaging with the Authority regarding it future resourcing requirements.

The HSA has noted a high level of compliance with the Return to Work Safely Protocol to date during phases 1 and 2. Where businesses have not fully complied with the protocol, any matters that need to be addressed are the subject of the inspection report and followed up as appropriate to ensure compliance.

In relation to phase 3, there will be a focus on the businesses reopening at that stage, particularly on restaurants, cafés and pubs. Along with the HSA’s own inspectorate, the Environmental Health Officers have deep knowledge of that sector and they too will be inspecting in line with the public health guidance and the Protocol.

The issue raised by the Deputy of additional guidance for pubs which back onto residential streets in order to prevent groups gathering near homes would be a matter for the Gardaí where such circumstances arise.

The results from the inspections to date remain encouraging and are a positive indication that both employers and employees are generally taking a responsible and proactive approach to compliance with the Protocol.

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