The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) says Covid-19 infection rates are "out of control" in hospitals.
The union says almost 2,000 frontline healthcare staff have caught the virus in their workplace over a two week period.
It is calling for stricter health and safety measures like higher standard masks and better distancing between beds.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, says the situation is urgent.
"The bottom line is we need better protections," said Ms Ní Sheaghdha.
"These healthcare workers, nurses, midwives, and all other healthcare workers are going into hospitals, going into community areas and they are doing that with a very high risk associated with that."
To combat the problem, the INMO is calling for urgent upgrades to safety measures including:
- A national requirement that high-standard FFP2 masks be used in all healthcare settings – not just basic surgical masks;
- Distance between beds is increased from the current one metre minimum to two metres
- Regular testing for all staff in healthcare settings on a rolling basis
- Safety review in each hospital, in particular to reduce footfall and improve decontamination practices.
Some hospitals, such as Cork University Hospital, have already introduced FFP2 masks as standard but at the moment practices vary across the country.
The INMO is calling for clearer national direction for masks and other measures.
They have also referred the issue to the Health and Safety Authority.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said members are furious that while they await their first vaccine, HSE policy is "leaving them exposed" to Covid-19.
“Hospital infection rates are out of control. This is directly harming frontline staff and depleting rosters.
“The HSE needs to take control and issue strong national guidance to increase safety standards."