Speaking on the back of the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases linked to workplaces and increased restrictions across the state, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment, and Workers’ Rights Louise O’Reilly has called on the government to implement three immediate steps to protect workers from infection.
Deputy O’Reilly is calling for an end to all announced HSA inspections, increased resources for the Health and Safety Authority, and Covid-19 to be made a notifiable workplace illness.
Speaking today, Teachta O’Reilly said: “Incidences of Covid-19 in workplaces such as meat plants, food processing plants, and health facilities have been rife throughout the Covid crisis so far. Many, many workers are being put in danger because of the rapid development of clusters.
“Without a proactive and preventative system of trying to stop the spread of Covid-19 in workplaces, workers will remain vulnerable and susceptible to contracting the virus in their workplace.
“Three changes are essential to ensuring that cases of Covid-19 do not develop into clusters in workplaces:
- an end to all announced HSA inspections;
- increased resources, financial and human, for the Health and Safety Authority; and,
- making Covid-19 a notifiable workplace illness.
“All three can be done immediately and without legislation.
“The HSA should never have been engaged in announced inspections. Announced inspections seem to have been the privilege of the meat industry, and they should end immediately.
“The role of the HSA, the body responsible for enforcing health and safety law, promoting accident prevention, and providing information and advice, is essential to ensure workers are kept safe and the “Return to Work Safely Protocol” protocol is adhered to.
“Frustratingly, the HSA have not been given sufficient resources to increase the number of dedicated inspectors they have to carry out inspections.
“Parliamentary Question data from the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has revealed that the HSA have only 67 inspectors to cover almost 271,000 businesses across the state.
“That needs to change, the HSA need to have the human and financial resources necessary to do their job and ensure businesses adhere to health and safety regulations and that workers are kept safe.
“Finally, the Tánaiste needs to immediately sign regulations to make Covid19 a notifiable workplace illness that is reportable to the HSA.
“All workers, whether they be in meat plants, care homes, building sites, or office blocks in the IFSC, deserve to be protected from this virus.”