Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Questions (607)

Mairéad Farrell


607. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the way in which the Health and Safety Authority will fulfil its role in enforcing worker safety for employments as per the return to work safely protocol; the additional resources which will be provided to ensure random inspections of workplaces in order to assess the implementation of safeguards; the number of HSA workplace inspectors employed; her plans for an increase of such inspectors to adequately address the implementation of worker safety protocols; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6423/20]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Compliance with the Return to Work Safely Protocol is being led by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), who have overall responsibility for ensuring the health, safety and welfare at work of all workers.

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.  The HSA inspectorate will be supplemented significantly by deploying, under the authority of the HSA, other inspectors from across the system who already have an environmental health, agriculture or other workplace/business inspection responsibilities.  As we have seen with the general public health measures over the past two months, most people are complying with the rules. We can expect the same from employers and workers, most of who want to get back to work, and want the workplace to be safe, for them and for the families that they are returning to in the evenings.

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 email and phoneline.

Phase 1 of the reopening of the economy began on Monday last and, the HSA and other inspectors are out there advising and guiding employers on how to respect the Protocol.  Helping businesses to comply is the overall goal of the HSA.  However if, following an inspection, the inspector forms the opinion that further action is required, the appropriate action, up to and including the closure of a workplace, will be taken using the relevant powers. Where relevant, the public health authorities will be involved.

All matters will be kept under review as the phased re-opening of the economy gets underway over the coming weeks.