Written answers

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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65. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment his plans to amend the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to make workplace outbreaks of Covid-19 notifiable by workers to the Health and Safety Authority. [29987/20]

Photo of Gino KennyGino Kenny (Dublin Mid West, People Before Profit Alliance)
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71. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment if he will respond positively to calls from nurses and other healthcare professionals to reinsert the requirement that infectious diseases, including Covid-19, are reported by employers to the Health and Safety Authority as infectious diseases in the workplace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23678/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 71 together.

I intend to introduce an SI in early November to bring in new Biological Agent regulations in line with the European Union Directive (EU) 2020/739. These new regulations require employers to carry out a Biological Risk Assessment in locations where there is an occupational risk of exposure to SARs-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease COVID-19), such as healthcare and laboratory settings. This will mean that all instances of a diagnosis of COVID-19, or the death of an employee resulting from COVID-19 in a healthcare or laboratory setting must be reported to the Health and Safety Authority.

In addition, the Health and Safety Authority is currently in the process of completing a regulatory impact assessment on a proposal to introduce a legislative requirement for all employers to report cases of COVID-19 to the Authority. This review is being carried out in line with the Health and Safety Authority’s legislative development process which involves the Board of the Health and Safety Authority and other relevant stakeholders. Following completion of the legislative review process, the Board of the Health and Safety Authority will inform me of any proposals or recommendations it considers appropriate.

COVID-19 is a notifiable disease under the Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Regulations 2020. Any infectious disease pandemic is first and foremost a matter of public health for which a legal basis for reporting already exists under public health legislation. Notifiable infectious diseases are statutorily reportable under the Infectious Diseases Regulations 1981 to the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health for investigation and control.

It must also be noted that the Workplace Contact Unit of the HSA can be contacted in confidence by anyone with concerns regarding workplace health and safety matters by phone (1890 289 389) or email (wcu@hsa.ie) and the matter will receive the appropriate attention.

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