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News & Events

Tánaiste publishes updated Protocol for employers on ventilation, vaccinations and antigen testing

New guidance to protect workers and help people get back to work

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD today (14 May 2021) published updated guidance on ventilation, vaccinations and antigen testing to protect workers and help people get back to work.

The updated Work Safely Protocol reflects the most up to date public health advice for the workplace. It sets out the range of measures required to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace, including information on how to approach the use of antigen testing.

The Tánaiste said:

“Our advice is still to continue to work from home where possible. However, with some sectors being able to reopen over the coming weeks, it is timely to update our protocol for workplaces to make sure that employers have clear guidance on how to keep their staff and customers safe, based on the most up to date public health advice.

“We know much more about the virus now. We now know the importance of ventilation for example, of letting fresh air circulate in a room and how much safer outdoors is to indoors.

“We now have a Government endorsed report on antigen testing and I know many employers are using it already. I am encouraging more to do so.  This document gives clear information on how to use antigen testing appropriately in the workplace. It sets out that these tests should be used as an additional health and safety measure and not as a substitute for any other precautions. I am also calling on employers to consider how they can improve ventilation in workplaces. Even simple actions like airing rooms or keeping a window open can make a difference. 

“It is really important to say that the best way to prevent the virus from spreading, the best way to protect each other and to make sure that as we reopen, we stay open, is to keep doing the things we have all been doing. Wash hands, keep a distance, wear a mask, stay at home and contact your GP if you have symptoms. This advice hasn’t changed and is still the most important. 

“We now have a vaccination programme and are vaccinating approximately 270,000 people per week. Over a third of our adult population has had at least one dose now and we hope to have the vast majority of our adult population registered by the end of June. Vaccination is and will remain voluntary so it’s important that employers have guidance on how to manage any unvaccinated workers. This document gives that information.  

“Businesses have had an incredibly challenging few months. Although I know many will be delighted to get their doors open again, I know many will also be a little nervous. I hope this document gives some reassurance. Businesses have put in an enormous effort over the past year to keep their staff and customers safe. The Government is committed to continuing to help over the next few months, as people get back on their feet.”

Damien English TD, Minister for Business, Employment and Retail said:

“The updated Work Safely Protocol is an important tool-kit for employers in Ireland as Government efforts continue towards an orderly and safe reopening of the economy and society. The document contains important guidance which can be followed to protect workplaces, workers, and customers.

As more people return to work over the coming months it is important that they can do so safely.  Government will continue to engage with the business community and their staff to keep everyone safe and to help prevent the virus spreading from the workplace into the wider community.

While the virus has stabilised in recent weeks, we still need everyone to play their part to keep Covid under control so we can get back to having a strong, healthy economy. I am very optimistic about where our economy can go in the next couple of years, and I would like to thank businesses and workers for their ongoing efforts during these tough times.”

The Work Safely Protocol was first published last year. It has been developed in close consultation with employers and trade unions through the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF). Such cooperation is an essential part of our collective efforts to manage the pandemic.

Since May 2020, over 33,000 Covid-19 inspections around compliance with the Protocol have been carried out by a number of State Agencies.

The Health and Safety Authority will remain the lead Agency in co-ordinating compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. It will continue to be supported in this role by inspectors from a range of other Government Departments and State Bodies.

In addition to the Protocol document there is now a range of complementary material available for the workplace, including a checklist and posters which may make it easier to communicate the measures advised (Work Safely Resources)

NOTE FOR EDITORS

The revised Work Safely Protocol can be accessed here Work Safely Protocol.

The Work Safely Protocol is a revision of the Return to Work Safely Protocol published in May 2020. This revised Protocol incorporates the current advice on the Public Health measures needed to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in the community and workplaces as issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and the Department of Health.

The Protocol is a general document applicable to all sectors. It is not designed to prohibit the introduction of further specific measures in particular sectors or workplaces. Further specific measures can be introduced as long as they enhance the measures set out in the Protocol.

It sets out the minimum measures required in every place of work to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to facilitate the re-opening of workplaces following temporary closures and the ongoing safe operation of those workplaces. The revision of the Protocol was necessary to reflect new knowledge and understanding of what additional measures are available to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in workplaces.

The main updated Public Health advice includes information on wearing of masks, ventilation of workplaces and antigen testing and the how a testing regime might be introduced and what both employers and employees should do, if such testing is deemed necessary. These are areas where knowledge has developed since the start of Pandemic. The Protocol contains links directing employers and employees to a range of Government Departments and Agencies where additional and more detailed information and guidance can be sourced.

The Health and Safety Authority will remain the lead Agency in relation to co-ordinating compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. It will continue to be supported in this role by inspectors from a range of other Government Departments and State Bodies. The Health and Safety Authority together with these other inspectorates have carried out nearly 33,000 Covid-19 inspections around compliance with the Protocol since May 2020. In addition, the Government has made additional funding of €4m available to the Health and Safety Authority for its 2021 budget. This will largely be used by the Health and Safety Authority to set up a new Occupational Health Division which will co-ordinate, and focus on, the Authority’s response to the management of Covid-19 in the workplace.

ENDS

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) plays a key role in implementing the Government’s policies of stimulating the productive capacity of the economy and creating an environment which supports job creation and maintenance. The Department has lead responsibility for Irish policy on global trade and inward investment and a remit to promote fair competition in the marketplace, protect consumers and safeguard workers.

For further information please contact Press Office, D/Enterprise, Trade and Employment, press.office@enterprise.gov.ie or (01) 631-2200