The Taoiseach is urging people to be particularly vigilant in the coming weeks, in the run up to Christmas.

Updated guidance to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace

The pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives. This updated Work Safely Protocol sets out the actions that need to be taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace.

It contains information and practical advice on a range of topics such as the management and control of outbreaks, selection of hand sanitisers, wearing of masks, ventilation of workplaces and symptoms. These are areas where our knowledge has developed since the start of the virus and it is important that the guidance reflects the most up to date public health advice available.

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “I welcome today’s publication of the updated Work Safely Protocol. The protocol provides clear, helpful guidance to all businesses and workers, outlining what they need to do to tackle Covid-19 and ensure the safety of all in the workplace. This protocol has been developed in close consultation with employers and trade unions through the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF); such co-operation is an essential part of our collective efforts to manage the pandemic.

"I am urging people to be particularly vigilant in the coming weeks, in the run up to Christmas, as certain workplaces will see an increase in activity. It’s important for employers and workers to pay renewed attention to the risks – and consult the Protocol to ensure a safe work environment.”

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, added: “It is crucial that we provide employers and managers with the tools to manage their business in a way that is safe for workers. This Protocol, which has been updated in consultation with health experts, worker representatives and employer groups, sets out the practical steps that need to be taken to prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the commitment and resourcefulness of both business owners and staff around the country and thank you all for the incredible effort you have put in to keep your workers and customers safe over the past few months. It has been exceptionally challenging, and you have shown true grit and leadership.

“Your efforts to date have saved lives. We are asking that you continue to keep adapting your business so that it is as safe as it possibly can be. This will be especially important as we ease restrictions in the lead up to Christmas. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure Christmas workplace outbreaks are avoided.”

The Health and Safety Authority will remain the lead Agency in co-ordinating compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. It will continue to be supported in this role by inspectors from a range of other Government Departments and State Bodies.

Nearly 20,000 Covid-19 inspections around compliance with the Protocol have been carried out since May 2020. The Government has made additional funding of €4m available to the HSA for 2021. This will largely be used for extra staff to focus on the management and prevention of Covid-19 in the workplace.

Dr. Sharon McGuinness, Chief Executive Officer of the Health and Safety Authority, commented: “The key to effectively managing Covid-19 in the workplace remains close collaboration and communication between employers and workers. This Work Safely Protocol is an update to reflect the evolving public health guidelines. It provides clear guidelines and measures to employers and workers and is supplemented by a range of templates and online resources available from our website. The prevention and control measures have not changed and the importance of adhering to hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and physical distancing continues to be emphasised. I urge all employers and workers to ensure that the requirements outlined in this Protocol are embedded in their workplace.”

Patricia King, ICTU General Secretary, said: “The revised Work Safely Protocol is an important document and it is vital that it is fully complied with and also crucial that workers can have full confidence that workplaces are Covid safe. I commend the appointment of lead worker representatives who will play a central role ensuring that standards are complied with.”

Danny McCoy, Chief Executive Officer of Ibec, added: “Ibec welcomes the publication of the Work Safely Protocol. The protocol has provided valuable guidance for employers and employees to establish and maintain safe working environments in the context of Covid-19. The Protocol is a living document and as such we are pleased to see this revised version incorporating the learnings and insights of recent months.”

Tom Parlon, Chief Executive Officer of the Construction Industry Federation, said: “The Construction Industry Federation welcomes the publication of the Work Safely Protocol. The construction industry has a long track record of operating world class safety protocols and advises members to review the updated protocol in tandem with the industry specific C19 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Our standard operating procedure has enabled the industry to operate during the pandemic. This protocol is critical to maintaining some level of economic activity throughout pandemic related restrictions. This protocol will be promoted throughout the construction industry and bolster the comprehensive practices evident on construction sites around Ireland.”

Community transmission is still a challenge. Employees need to consider public health advice covering travelling to work, lunchtime and breaktime behaviour. Every employer should read the revised Protocol and ensure that public health advice is fully implemented in their business and, also, that any employee who can work from home should continue to do so.

The Tánaiste also acknowledged the collaborative efforts by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Health Services Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health, together with the social partner members of the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) which worked jointly on updating the Protocol.

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