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Compliance on return to work safely protocol must be enforced - Senator Paul Gavan

14 May, 2020 - by Paul Gavan

Sinn Féin Seanad Spokesperson on Workers' Rights Senator Paul Gavan has called on the Government to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure there is full compliance with the new Return to Work Safety Protocol.

The Protocol, which was drawn up as the result of intense discussions involving The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Employers, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Health Services Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health, is designed to ensure the safety of all employees who will be returning to work in the coming weeks.

Senator Gavan said;

“Trade Unions will have a central role to play to ensure compliance and will play their part in full. However, I am particularly concerned about workplaces where there is no trade union presence to police this protocol.

“I am also concerned about the capacity of the HSA to carry out inspections on the scale that will be necessary to ensure effective policing. We need to hear how many inspectors the HSA currently has at its disposal and how many additional inspectors will be added to ensure effective enforcement. Unannounced inspections will be a crucial part of the enforcement of this protocol.

“Furthermore, where the HSA has gaps in capacity it should work in partnership with trade unions to utilise the Health and Safety and Human Resource expertise within the trade union movement. Effective Health and safety is the interests of everybody in the battle to combat Covid 19 and trade unions have the expertise to play a key role across all workplaces.”

Senator Gavan also maintained that on site Health and Safety Reps should be selected by the workforce, as set out in the 2005 Health Safety and Welfare at Work Act, rather than being appointed by employers.

"I am calling on the Government to review inspection and compliance powers to beef up enforcement of the Protocol.

“It is good to know that the HSA has the power ultimately to close down sites in the interests of public health under this Protocol, but consideration should also be given to on the spot fines.

"We need nothing less than 100% compliance with this Protocol to ensure the confidence and safety of workers, management and customers across the various sectors about to re-open in the coming days and weeks.”

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