Written answers

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Departmental Properties

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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6. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to improve ventilation in the office buildings of his Department; if air cleaning and or purification systems have been installed in 2021; and if not, the plans to install same in 2022. [59718/21]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Accommodation for my Department and its Offices is provided by the Office of Public Works (OPW) in buildings which are either State owned or leased by the OPW on our behalf. Typically, the Department and its Offices are in shared accommodation, either with other Government Departments, public bodies and/or the private sector.

The Department and its Offices are located in 11 locations across the country.As tenants the Department works closely with OPW colleagues, and where relevant, engages with the local landlords and with other tenants, to ensure the provision of appropriate, fit-for-purpose accommodation for our staff and any visitors to the buildings. 

As part of our internal response to the COVID-19 pandemic my Department has implemented a suite of infection prevention control measures to reduce the risk of disease transmission and to assist in making the work environment as safe as possible.

As alluded to in the national Work Safely Protocol, ventilation is not a standalone measure in itself and it is key that staff, and visitors alike, continue to adhere to all aspects of the prevailing public health guidance such as social distancing, ensuring good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette such as facemask wearing in communal areas, proper cough etiquette and availing of vaccinations when offered same. 

Given the nature of the buildings occupied by my Department and its Offices, the technical advice provided by the OPW to date is that there is no need for additional mechanical interventions to be made to our buildings to enhance ventilation at this time. This OPW advice comes with the caveat that the Department should, and is ensuring, that all reasonable arrangements are in place to maximise ventilation through a combination of actions tailored to their locations. This includes opening more windows and carefully managing the overall numbers daily in each location so as to ensure rooms do not become overcrowded.Such arrangements are overseen by a dedicated Health and Safety Unit working in conjunction with colleagues across the Department and its Offices.

To provide added assurance to staff and in supplementing our range of COVID-19 specific control measures, my Department has also installed approximately 20 air quality monitors in various locations across our buildings where these were deemed to be warranted. These are small mobile monitors which provide real-time information such as CO2 levels in rooms and will inform us if there are negative issues with ventilation.  To date, the information gleaned from the monitors backs up the OPW technical advice in relation to ventilation in our occupied buildings. 

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, my Department will of course keep all health and safety related issues under review and will liaise closely with the OPW and with other external expertise as required.  


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