Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, today published a revised Work Safely Protocol, which has been reviewed by employers and employee representative groups following the most recent public health advice received by Government earlier this week.
The core public health measures that have kept workplaces safe throughout the pandemic, such as the need to maintain the requirement for physical distancing, the wearing of masks and ventilation remain unchanged. These measures remain critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The Tánaiste said:
"Today will see a further reopening of our society and thousands more people will be able to go back to work and their workplaces, after what has been an incredibly challenging time for many. However, unfortunately the pandemic isn’t over yet. We’re going to have to get through another winter before we can safely say that it’s behind us.
“Employers and employee representatives have had an opportunity to review the Work Safely Protocol, to make sure the guidance contained therein is fit for purpose given the latest public health advice. It reiterates the importance of the basic measures we are all familiar with, making sure indoor spaces are well ventilated, the importance of acting fast, self-isolating and getting tested if you’re experiencing symptoms, social distancing and mask wearing when appropriate. It also emphasises the role of the Lead Worker Representative, appointed to work with the employer to keep everyone safe.
“I know some may be nervous about returning to the office. We are taking a very cautious, phased approach. This Protocol will help make sure employers and their staff have the guidance to protect against the virus and keep places of work safe.”
In line with public health advice, the return to physical attendance in workplaces should continue to take place on a phased and cautious basis appropriate to each sector and for specific business requirements. A cautious and careful return to workplaces should take into account appropriate attendance levels, with the use of staggered arrangements such as non full-time attendance and flexible working hours, and that attendance is for specific business requirements.
Damien English TD, Minister for Business, Employment and Retail, said:
“With the further easing of restrictions and the sense of hope that it brings for people and businesses across the country, it is important the Work Safely Protocol remains in place and the guidelines for workplace safety are re-stated at this time. The Protocol sets out the minimum Public Health infection prevention and control measures for employers and workers, in every place of work, to help prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“By working together on implementing public health infection control measures, workers and their employers bring about the best way to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in their own workplace. The role of the Lead Worker Representative (LWR) in an organisation will continue to be crucial, and together with the employer will assist in the implementation of and monitor adherence to the measures in the Protocol.”
NOTES TO EDITOR
The Work Safely Protocol was first published last year. It has been developed in close consultation with employers and trade unions through the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF).
On 20 October 2021, a guidance note was published by the LEEF, which supports the guidance set out in the Protocol.
All workers, regardless of the sector of the economy in which they work, are covered by the provisions of the Work Safely Protocol. Since May 2020, over 45,000 COVID-19 inspections around compliance with the Protocol have been carried out by a number of State Agencies.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will remain the lead Agency in coordinating compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. The government has made additional funding of over €1.7m available to the Authority for its 2022 budget. It will continue to be supported in this role by inspectors from a range of other government departments and State bodies.
In addition to the Protocol document there is now a range of complementary material available for the workplace including a checklist and posters which may make it easier to communicate the measures advised.
See the revised Work Safely Protocol here - Work Safely Protocol
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) plays a key role in implementing the Government’s policies of stimulating the productive capacity of the economy and creating an environment which supports job creation and maintenance. The Department has lead responsibility for Irish policy on global trade and inward investment and a remit to promote fair competition in the marketplace, protect consumers and safeguard workers.
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