Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly TD, said she was confident that Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of her Bill to make Covid-19 a notifiable workplace illness, by the Oireachtas Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Committee, will reinforce the need for workplace outbreaks of Covid19 to be categorised as a notifiable occupational illness reportable to the Health and Safety Authority.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Workplace outbreaks of Covid-19 are currently not a notifiable occupational illness to the Health and Safety Authority (HAS) due to a lacuna in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act.
“In June 2020 I published a Bill to make workplace outbreaks of Covid-19 notifiable to the 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 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, I outlined that many, many workers were being put in danger because of the rapid development of clusters of the virus in workplaces. It is with great regret that this became a constant reality over the past year.
“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, the Oireachtas Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Committee is undertaking Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Amendment) Bill 2020, and I am sure during the course of the hearing the members will agree that workers need the protections which my Bill offers.”