The national Return to Work Safely Protocol, introduced in May, is designed to support employers and workers to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The Protocol sets out in very clear terms the procedures and practices to be followed in all workplaces to ensure compliance with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures identified as necessary by the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health.
The Health and Safety Authority is the lead Agency in relation to checking compliance with the Protocol. However, in relation to the inspection of meat plants, it is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) which has a permanent presence at 49 of the 149 DAFM approved meat premises and which also carries out inspections related to the national Return to Work Safely Protocol under an MOU with the HSA.
I have been advised by the Health and Safety Authority that it has completed 81 inspections/investigations of meat processing plants since the lifting of restrictions on 18 May 2020 up to 16 September 2020 including ones with COVID-19 outbreaks. The Health and Safety Authority has further advised that 12 of these were revisits.
Health and Safety Authority inspectors have observed a generally high level of compliance with the recommended measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in a workplace context, in line with the Interim Guidance issued by the National Outbreak Control Team. While inspectors have issued written Reports of Inspections (ROIs) in respect of the meat plants inspected no prosecutions have been taken or penalties imposed as a result of inspections by the Health and Safety Authority.