Extra funding to be made available to get businesses back to work safely

Extra funding will be made available to ensure that workplaces adhere to public health advice on coronavirus.
Extra funding to be made available to get businesses back to work safely

Extra funding will be made available to ensure that workplaces adhere to public health advice on coronavirus.

Outlining the Government’’s Return to Work safety protocol for workplaces,

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

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

Ms Humphreys 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.

However, questions have been raised about the ability of the HSA to carry out investigations on top of its existing workload.

Responding Ms Humphreys 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."

"The HSA will need additional compliance to ensure compliance with this protocol and we will make them available from existing resources. We’’ll also need to use officers from existing government agencies and departments to work with the HSA to oversee compliance.

"They will get what they need. The HSA has done huge work in putting together this document in association with employers and unions and stakeholders."

Ms Humphreys said that there will need to be guidelines drawn up for public transport, but said that the document released on Saturday was specifically about what happened in the workplace.

"Employers can only control what happens in the workplace, they can’’t be responsible for how people get to work. There will have to be further guidance around public transport and I know the Department of Transport is considering it. Like everything else, it will be guided by public advice."

Ms Humphreys acknowledged some of the new measures may make some business unviable but that health and safety must take precedence. She added that while some businesses would need to spend some additional money, she hoped they would avail of government funding.

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