Calls made for HSA COVID-19 enforcement powers

A number of TDs have called for the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to be granted extended powers to ensure enforcement of special COVID-19 measures, such as social distancing, in the workplace. Currently, no state agency has the statutory authority to carry out workplace inspections to ensure that appropriate physical distancing measures are in place to protect workers against the spread of COVID-19.

The HSA has said that it currently has no powers to oversee the COVID-19 guidelines stating that its legislative remit covers “occupational health and safety issues as opposed to public health”. The HSA has also said that it is responding to all COVID-19 complaints and queries and advising workers and employers to follow all public health recommendations in place.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has also confirmed that its environmental officers are providing advice and guidance on COVID-19 containment measures to essential food businesses only.

Many trade unions have expressed concerns over the governing of safety measures in the workplace once restrictions are lifted across a range of industries. One trade union recently revealed the results of a survey of 7,000 retail workers which found that staff at almost half the stores felt their employers were not adhering to social distancing guidelines and a third said they have insufficient PPE. A slight air of complacency, amongst both customers and employers, has been noted.

Unions have stated that a large amount of work needs to be done to ensure protocols are put into place to ensure worker safety when restrictions are lifted and more people return to work.

Further information: journal.ie and irishexaminer.ie.