Just two education facilities assessed by HSA for Covid compliance

Just two education facilities assessed by HSA for Covid compliance

The educational sector has only 50% compliance from the two inspections undertaken.

Just two educational facilities have been assessed for Covid compliance, the Irish Examiner can reveal.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) Protocol Compliance checks have been scrutinising workplaces to ensure they are following Covid-19 safety protocols.

The criteria each inspection is adjudicated on is whether the workplace has a Covid Plan in place, if Covid training has been completed, whether Covid control measures are in place and if a lead worker to oversee Covid control has been selected.

The checks per sector between from May 17 to October 7 show that just two educational facilities have been checked for Covid compliance, one of which failed in every criterion.

An educational facility can be: Pre-primary education, primary education, secondary education, higher education, other education or educational support activities.

The educational sector has only 50% compliance from the two inspections undertaken.

The construction sector has undergone 1,774 checks, with around 85% compliance.

The second most inspected sector is manufacturing, with 500 inspections and an average of 85% compliance.

The figures were released under a Parliamentary Question to Sinn Féin's Louise O'Reilly, who said: "Two HSA inspections across the whole education sector to check for compliance with the Covid19 Return to Work Safely Protocol is an embarrassing disgrace.

“There have been 204 cases of Covid-19 detected from testing carried out in educational settings.

“Creches, schools, and colleges are workplaces, and everyone - workers and students alike - has the right to be safe and protected at work.” 

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) say that a "key demand" of their union "has been that there must be a system of oversight in place to ensure that schools are implementing the guidelines that have been issued to schools regarding the continued opening of schools."

Minister for Education told the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that 90% of schools have had no engagement with public health since they reopened as outbreaks in these settings have been low, however, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: "I do take on board worries and concerns that people have, and new school teams have been developed, where public health teams work with representatives from the schools so that will strengthen the support and the engagement between public education in a more formalised way."

A Department of Education spokesperson noted that "the education sector" may not always mean schools and say their inspectors are currently carrying out a programme of SSPS (Safe and Sustainable Provision of Schooling) visits (in a trial phase) in primary, post-primary and special schools, beginning 14 September, have conducted 64 such trial visits in 36 primary schools, 25 post-primary schools and 3 centres for education.

"Findings from those trial visits undertaken to date are very positive, with most schools and centres found to be fully compliant with the checks undertaken," they said.

The number of HSA inspections this year had already exceeded the total number for the whole of last year.

In the first nine months of the year 5,166 inspections were carried out compared with 4,804.

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