The Health and Safety Authority is the lead agency in relation to overseeing compliance with the national Return to Work Safely Protocol. Between the period 18 May to 1 September the Health and Safety Authority completed 64 inspections of meat processing plant facilities (11 of these were revisits), which include those connected with COVID-19 outbreaks. In the month of August alone, the HSA carried out 26 meat plant inspections and 25 of which were unannounced. The announced inspection was to facilitate a research project by public health, DAFM and HSA in a particular plant.
The general policy of the HSA for workplace inspections is that all inspections should be unannounced, however, there can be circumstances where this is not possible. Such circumstances could include the need to speak to a specific person in a workplace or attend a workplace with an external expert and the inspector may need to give advance notice. Furthermore, some inspections might require an audit type approach to best assess the safety management system in place and arrangements to meet with the appropriate responsible persons onsite will require announced inspection.
In relation to the inspection of meat plants the Health and Safety Authority 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 carries out inspections related to the national Return to Work Safely Protocol under an MOU with the Health and Safety Authority.