August 12, 2020
Louise O’Reilly TD calls on TDs to support Sinn Féin Bill to make Covid-19 a notifiable workplace illness

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment, and Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly TD, has called on all TDs to support her Bill to make workplace outbreaks of Covid-19 notifiable to the Health and Safety Authority.

She has said that proactive notification and surveillance of Covid-19 is key to ensuring that we do not end up with clusters of the virus in workplaces as happened in some workplaces during the lockdown period.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Workplace outbreaks of Covid-19 are currently not a notifiable occupational illness to the HSA due to a lacuna in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act.

“In June I published a Bill to make workplace outbreaks of Covid-19 notifiable to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

“I was compelled to publish the legislation due to the failure of the then Minister, Heather Humphreys, to use her powers under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act to amend regulations to provide that occurrences of Covid-19 in the workplace would be notifiable to the Health and Safety Authority.

“I subsequently raised the need to make this change with her successor and new Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, an Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

“At the stroke of a pen he could make workplace outbreaks of Covid-19 notifiable to the HSA. Unfortunately, he too has refused to do this.

“The Irish Congress of Trade Unions have been to the fore of campaigning for this change and they have written to the relevant Ministers on a number of occasions requesting this simple change.

“At the time of launching the Bill in June, I stated that given incidences of Covid-19 in workplaces such as meat plants and health facilities were rife during the lockdown period, if this change wasn’t made then and many, many workers would again be put in danger because of the rapid development of clusters as we moved through lockdown. It is with great regret that we have seen this become a reality.

“The aim of the legislation is to protect workers in all workplaces, whether that be in meat plants, care homes, building sites, or office blocks in the IFSC.

“Today, there are reports of government backbench TDs calling for the Tánaiste to make this change by regulation, and I sincerely hope he does do this.

“However, if the Minister does not take the necessary steps to protect workers, then Sinn Féin will move this Bill in the Dáil once it resumes, and I would hope that the Bill would have the support of the government TDs calling for the issue to be rectified.”

A PDF of the Bill can be viewed online here

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