Businesses that do not comply with Covid-19 safety measures will be shut down

Businesses that do not comply with Covid-19 safety measures will be shut down

Businesses that do not comply with new safety protocols aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 can be shut down.

Business Minister Heather Humphreys said inspectors from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will be able to shut down workplaces that do not comply.

She was speaking at the launch of the Government’s Return to Work safety protocol for workplaces to reopen once the lockdown lifts.

They include regulations for social distancing, hand hygiene, first aid and mental health support for returning workers.

She said: “HSA inspectors will be able to take appropriate enforcement actions under the Health and Safety Act 2005. This means if a business does not co-operate and comply with public health guidelines after been asked to make improvements, the HSA will be able to order them to shut down the workplace.”

Ms Humprheys said businesses will also have to carry out a survey for workers to see if anyone is displaying Covid-19 symptoms before they can return to work.

They must also ensure adequate supplies of items such as hand sanitiser, and implement induction training so workers are “up to speed” on public health advice, she said.

Each workplace will appoint at least one lead worker representative to ensure the measures are strictly adhered to, and have a plan in place detailing how it will deal with any confirmed cases of the virus among employees.

Ms Humphreys acknowledged some of the new measures may make some business unviable but that health and safety must take precedence.

She said: “For some of the restaurants, if they can’t allow a certain number of people into their premises then it won’t be viable for them. But again, these are the challenges they face but we need to consider the one thing that drives us on and that is public health and safety.”

She urged businesses to start getting ready now and to make use of Government support available to fund the safety measures. Other measures – such as telling people not to shake hands or share utensils – cost nothing, she said.

Ms Humphreys added: “It is up to each sector to look at these protocols and make their own decision on how the protocols will work. When it comes to restaurants, pubs and cafes – it is difficult for them but this document gives them the basis to start forming their own protocols.”

She also said some businesses could come back sooner than planned as the Government’s road map to exiting the pandemic is a “live document”.

“If this virus is abated the road map the government has set out to ease restrictions can also be accelerated if we do well and we can also put the brakes on it if the virus increases,” she said.

Minister Jed Nash with Patricia King(Niall Carson/PA)
Minister Jed Nash with Patricia King (Niall Carson/PA)

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) general-secretary Patricia King said every employer “has an absolute duty to adhere to the rules”.

“The battle against Covid-19 demands an unambiguous policy in relation to health and safety,” she added.

“There can be no shortcuts or opt-outs when it comes to matters of life and death. Covid-19 does not discriminate and every worker in every sector is entitled to the protection of this protocol.

“This pandemic has impacted severely on every part of our society and economy, and this document represents an important milestone.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

On Friday, 27 deaths from Covid-19 were reported, taking the total to 1,429.

An additional 156 new cases were confirmed, to make a total of 22,541.

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said on Friday night that as the country moves into the next stage of coping with the virus, particular attention must be paid to how people behave in public spaces.

“As we prepare for the next stages of living with this virus, we are learning new norms and behaviours, particularly how we interact in public spaces,” he said.

“Physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, safe interactions apply to all if we are to keep Covid-19 suppressed in Ireland.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (Asti) will meet today to discuss changes to the Leaving Certificate exam.

The written exams, due to start at the end of July, will not go ahead. Students will instead be given a predicted grade by their school and the Department of Education will finalise their results.

The Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) accepted the plan but said it needed clarification on some issues.

National Return to Work Protocol includes handshake ban and Covid-19 induction training

By Digital Desk

Minister Humphreys warned that businesses would be shut down if they did not comply with Covid-19 measures.
Minister Humphreys warned that businesses would be shut down if they did not comply with Covid-19 measures.

Businesses have been warned they could be shut down if they do not follow new back-to-work guidelines.

The measures for firms re-opening will include a ban on handshakes and sharing equipment - as well as temperature checks for workers.

Speaking about the Return to Work plan, Business Minister Heather Humphreys said: “This Protocol is a critical component of the Government’s Roadmap for reopening the economy as we gradually lift the COVID-19 restrictions.

"It very clearly sets out the steps that businesses and workers should take to ensure that they can return to work safely."

Minister Humphreys said collaboration between employers and workers "will be central to the success of our return to work."

Some of the measures include:

  • Nominated lead work representatives to ensure Covid-19 measures are adhered to in the workplace.
  • Covid-19 induction training before the workplace reopens.
  • Employers are required to update their safety plans before reopening by consulting with workers.
  • The plan should include clear procedures around Covid-19 relevant measures such as social distancing, handwashing and respiratory etiquette
  • Employers will keep a log of any group work in order to facilitate contact tracing

Employers will be required to have a clear plan for dealing with any suspected case of Covid-19 and have a designated manager in charge for such a situation.

Breaks and rest periods are to be organised to facilitate social distancing.

Where social distancing is not possible in spaces smaller than 2-metres, businesses will be required to alternative protective measures in place such as plastic sneeze guards or physical barriers.

Business Minister Heather Humphreys said inspectors from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will be able to shut down workplaces that do not comply with new safety measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

The Minister said the HSA would take a collaborative approach at first and will provide advice and support.

However, she said: “HSA inspectors will be able to take appropriate enforcement actions under the health and safety act 2005.

"This means if a business does not co-operate and comply with public health guidelines after been asked to make improvements, the HSA will be able to order them to shut down the workplace.”

Reacting to the government's announcement, Elaina Fitzgerald Kane, President of the Irish Hotels Federation said they were working closely with Fáilte Ireland to develop operational standards "in line with HSE requirements and international best practice."

She said: "The health and safety of our guests and teams is our main priority and the standards will cover all aspects of hotel operations and facilities."

The Labour party's Employment spokesman, Ged Nash, welcomed the Government's new protocols and said enforcement by the HSA will be central for workers to have confidence in the measures.

He said: “The HSA should have no compunction in closing down rogue businesses where bad practices are evident and where workers and consumers are being put at risk.”

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