Officers and inspectors drafted to ensure workplace compliance with new Covid-19 guidelines

Environmental health officers and inspectors from the Department of Agriculture and the Workplace Relations Commission will be drafted in to ensure workplace compliance with new guidelines.
Officers and inspectors drafted to ensure workplace compliance with new Covid-19 guidelines

Environmental health officers and inspectors from the Department of Agriculture and the Workplace Relations Commission will be drafted in to ensure workplace compliance with new guidelines.

The reopening of construction sites yesterday saw around 150,000 people return to work under new guidelines published by the government and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in recent weeks.

However, it was yesterday revealed that there are just 67 active HSA inspectors across the county. Business Minister Heather Humphreys has pledged extra resources for the agency, but an exact number of new staff or the size of the investment has not yet been revealed.

In response to queries from The Irish Examiner, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation said that support would come from other agencies, however the response did not put a number on the additional resources.

"The HSA is deploying all its available inspectors across sectors to carry out both spot checks and other inspections to check compliance with the Protocol.

"A range of other inspection bodies are also being mobilised to inspect and check compliance with the Protocol, including the Environmental Health Officers, Department of Agriculture and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), among others.

"So, the Government is ramping up the number of staff available to carry out inspections significantly."

The Department added that it is confident that the majority of businesses will continue to adhere to public health guidance and that it was "important to remember that we are only at the start of phase one".

However, the Department warned that even with extra resources, it will not be possible for every workplace to be checked for compliance.

"Even with the enhanced cohort of inspectors available to the HSA, they cannot be expected to go into every business in the country. That would be entirely unrealistic and unachievable. What they will do is a mix of unannounced inspections, along with providing advice and information through the HSAs Workplace Contact Unit."

Labour TD Ged Nash has said that the "hands-off" approach to the safe return to work is not enough. He said that Health Minister Simon Harris's call for "cop on" won't be effective policy.

"The news that there are only 67 active Health and Safety Agency inspectors available this week is not good enough, and for the Minister for Health to urge collective 'cop on' is not a realistic policy to protect workers. The hands-off policy from Fine Gael is not good enough."

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