A. Introduction
1. Context
We are all confronted with a situation that was unimaginable a few short weeks ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted severely on every part of our society and our economy. In the face of this, the biggest challenge we have encountered in decades, Irish people have almost universally stepped up to the plate and adhered to the strict guidelines put in place by the Government, following the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Response Team (NPHET).
Because of this strict adherence to the rules, we have all contributed to the progress that
Ireland has made in containing the spread of COVID-19 and, in so doing, we have saved lives. Now, because of the progress made, we are beginning to move to the next phase in reducing the spread of the virus, while starting to gradually re-open our economy and our society. In doing so, we still need to make sure that we adhere to the rules of the new way of living and working, so that we maintain the gains we have made, and continue to suppress the spread of the virus. Work is a key part of life and most of us want to return to our jobs as soon as possible. But we need to get back to work safely.
The attached Return to Work Safely Protocol, is the result of a collaborative effort by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Health Services Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health. It is designed to support employers and workers to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, when the economy begins to slowly open up, following the temporary closure of most businesses during the worst phase of the current pandemic.
The protocol was developed following discussion and agreement at the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF), which is the forum for high level dialogue between Government, Trade Union and Employer representatives on matters of strategic national importance. The work has been overseen by the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
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The protocol incorporates current advice about measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). As the advice issued by NPHET continues to evolve, this protocol and the measures employers and workers need to address may also change. Therefore, it should be noted that the attached details are non-exhaustive and are also subject to change. This Protocol is a general document applicable to all industry sectors. It is not designed to prohibit the introduction of further specific measures in particular sectors or workplaces, as long as they enhance the measures set out in the Protocol. In addition, further supports for employers and workers will be developed and provided where appropriate. This is a living document.
2. Working together to suppress COVID-19 in the workplace
Strong communication and a shared collaborative approach between employers and workers is key to protecting against the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. It is also essential to achieve success and maximum buy-in. Employers and workers will have regular engagement about COVID-19 and preventative measures in the workplace. Information and guidance should be provided by employers to workers, which should include the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, how it spreads, cleaning routines and waste disposal as well as advice on hand and respiratory hygiene, physical distancing, use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and work equipment where relevant.
Adherence to this protocol will only be achieved if employers and workers have a shared responsibility to implement the measures contained in this protocol in their place of work. A collaborative approach to the implementation of the protocol is essential to achieve success and maximum buy-in. Each workplace will appoint at least one lead worker representative charged with ensuring that COVID-19 measures are strictly adhered to in their place of work. The person(s) undertaking the role must receive the necessary training and have a structured framework to follow within the organisation to be effective in preventing the spread of the virus. Employers will have regular and meaningful engagement with their worker representative, workers and/or their recognised Trade Union or other representatives (including their Health and Safety Committee where this exists) about the measures being put in place to address
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the occupational exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers will provide a COVID-19 induction training for all workers. The number of worker representatives for COVID-19 appointed will, ideally, be proportionate to the number of workers in the workplace and this person should be clearly identifiable in the workplace. Employers and worker representatives will work together to ensure that all the actions in this protocol are fully adhered to in order to ensure the suppression of COVID-19 in the workplace.
3. Overseeing and responding to a rapidly moving challenge
Over the following weeks, as the economy begins to open up in a way that ensures a safe return for workers and their families, this protocol may be supplemented by further guidance. As stated above, the challenge that we face is rapidly changing, and we need to be able to quickly respond to those changes. We also need to monitor how businesses are coping with the new way of working and whether changes need to be made to elements of this protocol.
In order to oversee this transition, a high-level consultative stakeholder forum, under the aegis of LEEF, will be established. This forum will include membership from the various bodies with responsibility for health and safety at work and for public health more generally. The forum will allow for ongoing engagement at national level on implementation issues in light of evolving public health advice and other factors.
Note that this Protocol is not intended to replace the existing measures that essential businesses, which have continued to operate, have already implemented. However, such businesses should review their existing measures to ensure they are in line with this Protocol.
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B. Protocol for Employers and Workers Regarding the Measures to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace
This non-exhaustive document describes the steps that employers and workers shall take in order to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. It also provides advice on the measures recommended by Government to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Employers and workers should however keep up to date with the latest measures introduced by Government and any advice issued as a result. For more general matters related to occupational health and safety (OSH) requirements, please refer to the relevant legislation, guidance and advice available on the Health and Safety Authority: www.hsa.ie.
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C. Employer-Worker Engagement, Communication and Training
The key to a safe and continued return to work requires strong communication and a shared collaborative approach between employers and workers.
Workplace controls to comply with infection prevention measures included in this protocol should be communicated and explained to all relevant workers and others (visitors, contractors) at the place of work. As noted above, an employer will appoint at least one lead worker representative whose role is to work collaboratively with the employer to assist in the implementation of measures and monitor adherence to the measures to prevent the spread of COVID -19. The number of representatives appointed will, ideally, be proportionate to the number of workers in the workplace and these key personnel will be clearly identifiable in the workplace. Every workplace will however, have at least one worker representative in place to address these COVID-19 requirements. The worker representative should, together with the COVID-19 response management team, support the implementation of the measures identified in this national protocol. Such a person or persons should be clearly identifiable in the workplace and receive the relevant and necessary training by their employer.
Employers will also communicate with safety representatives selected or appointed under the Occupational Health and Safety legislation and consult with workers on safety measures to be implemented in the workplace. The employer should use the appointed occupational safety and health officer or an external competent person to ensure the effective implementation of changes to work activities and the implementation of infection prevention and control measures in the workplace at the place of work. For further information on the role of Safety Representative visit this link.
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D. Background
The outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has evolved rapidly and the Department of Health is leading the Government response in Ireland to this national public health emergency and it, along with the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), is providing up to date information and advice on its website.
The advice and guidance for Ireland takes account of guidance from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization, and decisions of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). An Expert Advisory Group (EAG), which includes experts in Public Health Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Infection Prevention and Control and Virology, has also been established which provides expert scientific advice relating to the novel coronavirus and advises NPHET.
Exposure to COVID-19 is a public health risk which affects all citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic also has implications for all workplaces as it can present a health risk to workers and other persons at a place of work. The reopening of the economy goes hand-in-hand with the provision of public health measures to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 as well as the existing occupational safety and health measures. Managing the risk of spread in the workplace is important in relation to the health of workers but is also important as part of general efforts to control the spread and protect the most vulnerable.
The following protocol describes the measures required to be put in place by employers and adhered to by workers to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 can cause illness, ranging from mild to severe, and, in some cases, can be fatal. It can take anything from 2 days up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear. They can be similar to the symptoms of cold and flu.
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Common symptoms of coronavirus include:
• a fever (high temperature – 38 degrees Celsius or above).
• a cough – this can be any kind of cough, not just dry.
• shortness of breath or breathing difficulties.
For the complete list of symptoms, please refer to the HSE Website.
Some people infected with the virus, so called asymptomatic cases, have experienced no symptoms at all.
How COVID-19 Spreads
The virus that causes COVID-19 disease is spread from people in fluid and in droplets scattered from the nose or mouth of an infected person when the person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks. The fluid or droplets land on objects and surfaces around the infected person. Other people contaminate their hands by touching these objects or surfaces and then bring the virus into contact with their eyes, nose or mouth by touching them with their contaminated hands. COVID-19 can also spread if droplets from an infected person land directly on the mucous membranes of the eye, nose or mouth of a person standing close to them.
It is still not known how long the virus survives on surfaces in different conditions. The period of survival may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment). Studies indicate that it can persist on surfaces for hours and up to several days in the absence of effective cleaning. Thorough and regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces is essential. If disinfection is required it must be performed in addition to cleaning, never as a substitute for cleaning.
While people are most likely to pass on the infection when they have symptoms, current information suggests that some infected people spread the virus to others prior to developing or displaying symptoms themselves.
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E. Getting Back to Work – Steps for Employers and Workers to Reduce Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in the Workplace
Any decisions to re-open a workplace shall be in done in compliance with the Government and public health advice.
In this regard, employers, in consultation with the nominated worker representative(s), must take the following steps:
1. Develop and/or Update the COVID-19 Response Plan
In advance of returning to work, employers will:
• develop and/or update a business COVID-19 Response Plan.
• update their occupational health and safety risk assessments and safety statement.
• address the level(s) of risk associated with various workplaces and work activities in the COVID-19 business plans and OSH risk assessments. For example, where, how and to what sources of COVID-19 might workers be exposed, including the general public, customers, co-workers etc.
• take into account worker’s individual risk factors (e.g. older workers, presence of underlying medical conditions, etc.).
• include in the plan a response plan to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19.
• include the controls necessary to address the risks identified.
• include contingency measures to address increased rates of worker absenteeism, implementation of the measures necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, changing work patterns, etc.
• develop plans in consultation with workers and communicate once finalised.
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2. Develop or amend policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of workers who may have symptoms of COVID-19, as appropriate
The prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a crucial step in protecting the worker involved, their colleagues, customers or others at the workplace.
Employers will:
• keep a log of contact/group work to facilitate contact tracing.
• inform workers and others of the purpose of the log.
• display information on signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
• provide up to date information on the Public Health advice issued by the HSE and Gov.ie.
• provide instruction for workers to follow if they develop signs and symptoms of COVID-19 during work.
Workers will:
• make themselves aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and monitor their own wellbeing.
• self-isolate at home and contact their GP promptly for further advice if they display any signs or symptoms.
• report to managers immediately if any symptoms develop during the shift.
3. Develop, Consult, Communicate and Implement Workplace Changes or Policies
Employers should:
• review and revise existing sick leave policies and amend as appropriate and in line with normal procedures. In so doing, employers will consult with and communicate to workers, in line with normal procedures, any changes that are introduced to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
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• ensure the occupational health service, if provided, is available to address any worker concerns and communicate the messages about good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and physical distancing. A business’s occupational health service should also provide training and advice on the measures recommended to reduce the spread as well as dealing with any anxieties or concerns workers may have about COVID-19.
• make available the necessary public health advice from the HSE and other sources as appropriate to their workers where there is no occupational health service available in a workplace. The lead worker representative(s) appointed (see above) should be involved in communicating the health advice around COVID-19 in the workplace.
• agree through negotiation with workers/Trade Unions any temporary restructuring of work patterns that may be required to implement the COVID-19 prevention measures in the workplace. In so doing, any existing sectoral agreements must be taken into account.
As information about the virus is evolving, public health advice is being updated on a regular basis, and it is important for employers and workers to recognise that flexibility will be required on the part of employers and workers in meeting the measures to reduce the spread.
4. Implementing the COVID-19 Prevention and Control Measures to Minimise risk to Workers
Before returning to work, the following pre-return to work steps should be put in place and completed by both employers and workers.
Employers must:
• establish and issue a pre-return to work form for workers to complete at least 3 days in advance of the return to work. This form should seek confirmation that the worker, to the best of their knowledge, has no symptoms of COVID-19 and also confirm that the worker is not self-isolating or awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.
• include the following questions on the form. If a worker answers Yes to any of them, they are strongly advised to follow the medical advice they receive or seek medical advice before returning to work:
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o Do you have symptoms of cough, fever, high temperature, sore throat, runny nose, breathlessness or flu like symptoms now or in the past 14 days? Yes/No,
o Have you been diagnosed with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection in the last 14 days? Yes/No,
o Are you a close contact of a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days (i.e. less than 2m for more than 15 minutes accumulative in 1 day)? Yes/No,
o Have you been advised by a doctor to self-isolate at this time? Yes/No,
o Have you been advised by a doctor to cocoon at this time? Yes/No.
• provide an induction training for all workers. This training should at a minimum include the latest up to-date advice and guidance on public health: what a worker should do if they develop symptoms of COVID-19; details of how the workplace is organised to address the risk from COVID-19; an outline of the COVID-19 response plan; identification of points of contact from the employer and the workers; and any other sector specific advice that is relevant.
• arrange for the putting in place of the necessary controls identified in the risk assessment to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
• implement temperature testing in line with Public Health advice.
To assist with the return to work, employers can find details of existing supports and resources in place for businesses impacted by COVID-19 at:
Workers must:
• complete and return the pre-return to work form before they return to work.
• inform their employer if there are any other circumstances relating to COVID-19, not included in the form, which may need to be disclosed to allow their safe return to work.
• self-isolate at home and contact their GP promptly for further advice if they have any COVID-19 symptoms.
• stay out of work until all symptoms have cleared following self-isolation.
• participate in any induction training provided by the employer on their return to the workplace.
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• complete any temperature testing as implemented by the employer and in line with Public Health advice.
Dealing with a Suspected Case of COVID-19 in the Workplace
While a worker should not attend work if displaying any symptoms of COVID-19, the following steps outline how employers should put in place a response plan in advance and also deal with a suspected case that may arise during the course of work.
Employers must:
• include a defined response structure that identifies the team(s) responsible for responding to a suspected case in the COVID-19 response plan.
• appoint an appropriate manager(s) for dealing with suspected cases.
• identify a designated isolation area in advance. The designated area and the route to the designated area should be easily accessible and as far as is reasonable and practicable should be accessible by people with disabilities.
• take into account the possibility of one or more persons displaying the signs of COVID-19 and have additional isolation areas available or another contingency plan for dealing with same.
• ensure the designated area has the ability to isolate the person behind a closed door. Where a closed door area is not possible, the employer must provide for an area away from other workers.
• provide as is reasonably practicable:
o Ventilation, i.e. via a window,
o Tissues, hand sanitiser, disinfectant and/or wipes,
o PPE; gloves, masks,
o Clinical waste bags.
If a worker displays symptoms of COVID-19 during work, the manager and the response team must:
• isolate the worker and have a procedure in place to accompany the individual to the designated isolation area via the isolation route, keeping at least 2 metres away from
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the symptomatic person and also making sure that others maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from the symptomatic person at all times.
• provide a mask for the person presenting with symptoms if one is available. The worker should wear the mask if in a common area with other people or while exiting the premises.
• assess whether the unwell individual can immediately be directed to go home and call their doctor and continue self-isolation at home.
• facilitate the person presenting with symptoms remaining in isolation if they cannot immediately go home and facilitate them calling their doctor. The worker should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects. Advice should be given to the person presenting with symptoms to cover their mouth and nose with the disposable tissue provided when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in the waste bag provided.
• arrange transport home or to hospital for medical assessment. Public transport of any kind should not be used.
• carry out an assessment of the incident which will form part of determining follow-up actions and recovery.
• arrange for appropriate cleaning of the isolation area and work areas involved.
• provide advice and assistance if contacted by the HSE.
Additional advice on dealing with a suspected case is available from the NSAI:
The best way to prevent person-to-person spread of COVID-19 is to use proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette and practice physical distancing.
Regular hand washing with soap and water is effective for the removal of COVID-19.
Employers must:
• ensure that appropriate hygiene facilities are in place to accommodate workers adhering to hand hygiene measures.
▪ make available advice and training on how to perform hand hygiene effectively:
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▪ display posters on how to wash hands in appropriate locations:
Workers must:
▪ ensure they are familiar with and follow hand hygiene guidance and advice.
▪ wash their hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub regularly and in particular:
o after coughing and sneezing,
o before and after eating,
o before and after preparing food,
o if in contact with someone who is displaying any COVID-19 symptoms,
o before and after being on public transport (if using it),
o before and after being in a crowd,
o when arriving and leaving the workplace/other sites,
o before having a cigarette or vaping,
o when hands are dirty,
o after toilet use.
▪ avoid touching their eyes, mouth, or nose.
▪ have access to facilities to support hand hygiene (for example hand sanitiser/hand wipes/hand washing facilities).
▪ not share objects that touch their mouth, for example, bottles or cups.
▪ use own pens for signing in.
In addition to hand hygiene, good respiratory hygiene and etiquette is also necessary.
Employers must:
▪ provide tissues as well as bins/bags for their disposal.
▪ empty bins at regular intervals.
▪ provide advice on good respiratory practice.
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Workers must:
• adopt good respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette.
▪ ensure they are familiar with and follow respiratory hygiene guidance.
Physical distancing is recommended to reduce the spread of infection. The current recommended distance to be maintained between people to minimise risk of transmission is 2 metres.
Employers must:
• provide for physical distancing across all work activities and this may be achieved in a number of ways:
o implement a no hand shaking policy,
o where office work is essential, free office capacity must be used as much as is reasonably practicable and work organised in such a way that multiple occupancy of office premises is avoided and/or physical distances maintained,
o organise workers into teams who consistently work and take breaks together. The teams should be as small as is reasonably practicable in the context of the work to be done,
o organise breaks in such a way as to facilitate maintenance of physical distancing during breaks,
o reorganise and rearrange working and break areas. For example, placing tables and chairs far enough apart in canteens,
o consider closing canteen facilities if public health measures including social distancing cannot be facilitated. If closing, provide information on delivery options,
o stagger canteen use and extend serving times,
o implement a queue management system with correct distance markings to avoid queues at food counters, tray return points and checkouts,
o put in place use of card payment methods where practicable,
o allocate specific times for collections, appointments and deliverables,
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o conduct meetings as much as possible using online remote means. Where face to face meetings are absolutely necessary, the length of the meeting and the numbers attending should be kept to a minimum and participants must maintain physical distancing at all times,
o provide one way systems for access/egress routes in the workplace where practicable,
o adapt existing sign-in/sign-out measures and systems, for example, biometrics/turnstiles, to ensure that physical distancing can be maintained,
o ensure that workers sharing collective accommodation at a place of work are grouped in fixed teams that are as small as is reasonably practicable and consist of individuals who also work together. As far as is reasonably practicable,
▪ each team should where reasonably practicable be provided with their own communal facilities (washrooms, kitchens and communal rooms) in order to avoid the additional burden of shift-wise use and the necessity to clean between occupancy by different teams. If this is not possible, employers should implement phased use and an enhanced cleaning regime.
▪ accommodation must be regularly cleaned and ventilated either manually (by opening windows and doors) or mechanically.
▪ sleeping accommodation should normally be occupied singly.
▪ additional rooms must be provided for early isolation of infected persons.
o prevent gatherings of workers in the workplace at the beginning and end of working hours (such as at time recording terminals and in changing rooms, washrooms and showers),
o implement physical distancing during any outdoor work activity. For outdoor work activities, facilities for frequent hand hygiene should be provided and should be located close to where workers are working.
In settings where 2 metre worker separation cannot be ensured by organisational means, alternative protective measures should be put in place, for example:
o Install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards between workers,
o Maintain at least a distance of 1 metre or as much distance as is reasonably practicable,
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o Minimise any direct worker contact and provide hand washing facilities, and other hand hygiene aids, such as hand sanitisers, wipes etc. that are readily accessible so workers can perform hand hygiene as soon as the work task is complete,
o Make face masks available to the worker in line with Public Health advice.
Note: wearing of masks is not a substitute for other measures outlined above. However, if masks are worn they should be clean and they should not be shared or handled by other colleagues. Employers and workers should keep up to date with the latest Public Health advice issued in regard to masks by Gov.ie/NPHET.
At Risk/Vulnerable Workers:
If an at risk or vulnerable worker cannot work from home and must be in the workplace, employers must make sure that they are preferentially supported to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres. However, employers should enable vulnerable workers to work from home where possible.
Working from home:
Office work should continue to be carried out at home, where practicable and non-essential work. The employer should develop and consult on any working from home policy in conjunction with workers and/or Trade Unions. Advice on working from home on a temporary basis is available from the Health and Safety Authority (link).
Business Travel and Contractors/Visitors:
• Business trips and face-to-face interactions should be reduced to the absolute minimum and, as far as is reasonably practicable, technological alternatives should be made available (e.g., telephone or video conferencing).
▪ For necessary work-related trips, the use of the same vehicles by multiple workers is not encouraged. The number of workers who share a vehicle – simultaneously or consecutively – should be kept to a minimum as far is as reasonably practicable, for example by assigning a vehicle to a fixed team.
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▪ Workers should be encouraged to travel alone if using their personal cars for work or at a maximum be accompanied by one passenger who shall be seated in adherence with physical distancing guidance.
▪ Workers should be provided with hand sanitisers and cleaning equipment for their work vehicle.
▪ Workers, contractors or visitors visiting workplaces where there are restrictions arising from the risk of COVID-19 should follow the site infection prevention and control measures and take into account public health advice around preventing the spread of COVID-19. A system for recording visits to the site(s) by workers/others as well as visits by workers to other workplaces should be put in place by employers and completed by workers as required.
▪ provide induction training for contractors and visitors to the workplace.
Cleaning of work areas must be conducted at regular intervals. Further information on cleaning in non-healthcare settings is available from the ECDC at:
Employers must:
▪ implement thorough and regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. If disinfection of an area is required it must be performed in addition to cleaning, never as a substitute for cleaning.
▪ ensure contact/touch surfaces such as table tops, work equipment, door handles and handrails are visibly clean at all times and are cleaned at least twice daily.
▪ implement modified cleaning intervals for rooms and work areas. This applies especially for washroom facilities and communal spaces. Cleaning should be performed at least twice per day and whenever facilities are visibly dirty.
▪ provide workers with essential cleaning materials to keep their own workspace clean (for example wipes/disinfection products, paper towels and waste bins/bags).
▪ increase number of waste collection points and ensure these are emptied regularly throughout and at the end of each day.
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▪ modify use of hot desks to ensure that these are made available to identified staff and have appropriate cleaning materials in place for workers to clean the area before using.
Use of PPE – Personal Protective Equipment
While correctly using PPE can help prevent some exposures, it should not take the place of other preventative measures as outlined above. Examples of PPE include gloves, goggles, respiratory protection. Use of PPE may already be required in many workplaces to address occupational health and safety risks, for example, exposure to hazardous chemicals such as asbestos. In the context of COVID-19 risk, employers should check the HPSC website regularly for updates regarding use of recommended PPE.
• Full hygiene compliance as set out above should be applied and maintained in all circumstances.
▪ PPE must be selected based on the hazard to the worker.
▪ Employers must provide PPE and protective clothing to workers in accordance with identified COVID-19 exposure risks and in line with Public Health Advice.
▪ Workers should be trained in the proper use, cleaning, storing and disposal of PPE.
▪ Gloves are generally not required for infection prevention and control purposes. Where gloves are necessary, they must not be considered a substitute for hand hygiene and hands must be cleaned whenever gloves are removed. Gloves should not create an additional occupational hazard (such as of gloves getting caught in rotating parts). Limitations on wearing time and workers’ individual susceptibilities (allergies, etc.) must also be taken into account.
▪ For particular PPE, such as respirators, these must be properly fitted and periodically refitted, as appropriate.
▪ PPE needs to be consistently and properly worn when required. In addition, it must be regularly inspected, cleaned, maintained and replaced as necessary.
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▪ Further information on PPE is available at: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Topics/Personal_Protective_Equipment_-_PPE/.
▪ Advice for manufacturers and importers who wish to introduce PPE onto the market in response to the current COVID-19 emergency is available on the HSA website.
Note: Face Shields designed and authorised as PPE against respiratory droplets should not be mistaken or used as a substitute for impact protection PPE in the workplace. For example, where standard CE marked Face Visor/Face protection PPE is required for work activities such as welding, grinding or to protect against chemical splashes.
5. Worker Role
Workers should follow the public health advice and guidance, as well as any specific direction from the employer. They should also adopt good hygiene practices, such as frequent hand washing, respiratory etiquette and physical distancing to protect themselves and their work colleagues against infection and should seek professional healthcare advice if unwell. If a worker has any symptoms of COVID-19, they should not attend work. Workers should also avoid making contact with their face and in particular their eyes, nose and mouth. Where necessary, workers should wash their hands immediately before touching their face.
As noted above, the key to effective implementation of the infection prevention and control measures as well as occupational health and safety measures in the workplace is having a strong communication and shared collaborative approach between employers and workers.
6. Customer Facing Roles
Many of the measures noted above for workers can and should equally be applied for work activity that involves direct customer or visitor contacts.
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Employers must:
• eliminate physical interaction between workers and customers as much as is reasonably practicable through revised working arrangements. For example through provision of online or phone orders, contactless delivery or managed entry.
• provide hand sanitisers at entry/exit points.
• install physical barriers and clear markings to ensure that contact between workers and customers is kept to a minimum and to ensure that queues do not form between customers as they wait to be served.
• implement a cleaning regime to ensure that contact points for workers and customers are kept visibly cleaned at all times.
• display the advice on the COVID-19 measures in visible locations to ensure that customers are also adhering to what is required.
7. Occupational Health and Safety Measures and Recommendations
All existing Occupational Health and Safety provisions will continue to apply to all workplaces during this time and further information and advice is available on the Health and Safety Authority website www.hsa.ie including additional occupational health and safety information on the specific COVID-19 webpages: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/topics/covid-19/covid-19_coronavirus.html.
Where the control of infection measures implemented requires changes to work activities, the employer is required to review and update their occupational health and safety risk assessments and safety statement in order to take account of any work changes which may arise following implementation.
As employers implement the above measures in the workplace to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for workers, specific occupational health and safety measures may also need to be considered and implemented. Employers should first take into account the most up-to-date official public health advice and guidance from the Department of Health and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (see
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above) on how to mitigate the health risk including measures advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for work related travel. Where a risk of exposure to COVID-19 is identified in the COVID-19 Response plan (see section above), an occupational health and safety risk assessment should also be completed. All of the public health and occupational health and safety measures should be developed in consultation with workers and/or Trade Union and ultimately communicated to workers and others at the workplace.
Employers should also communicate with safety representatives selected or appointed under the Occupational Health and Safety legislation and consult with workers on safety measures to be implemented in the workplace. The employer should use the appointed occupational safety and health officer or an external competent person to ensure the effective implementation of changes to work activities and the implementation of infection prevention and control measures in the workplace at the place of work. For further information on the role of Safety Representative see this link.
There is no requirement for an employer to notify the Health and Safety Authority if a worker contracts COVID-19. Diseases are not reportable under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Reporting of Accidents and Dangerous Occurrences) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 370 of 2016). COVID-19 is however reportable under the Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Regulations 2020 by a medical practitioner who becomes aware of or suspects an instance of such disease. Such a report should be sent to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in the HSE: https://www.hpsc.ie/notifiablediseases/.
In the event that first aid is required in the workplace it may not be possible to maintain a distance of 2 metres. Workers with a specific role in acting as first responders should be provided with updated training on infection prevention and control principles including
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performance of hand hygiene and appropriate use of personal protective equipment when delivering first aid.
Further advice on first aid is available from the Pre Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC):
• Employers should put in place support for workers who may be suffering from anxiety or stress. Workers, when they return to work, may have gone through traumatic events such as the serious illness or death of a relative or friend, or be experiencing financial difficulties or problems with their personal relationships.
• Workers who are returning to the workplace after a period of isolation are likely to have concerns about the risk of infection or changes to their job due to the implementation of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Employers should provide workers with information on publicly available sources of support and advice and information about the prevention and control measures taken in the workplace to reduce the risk of infection.
• Employers should ensure workers are made aware of and have access to any business provided Employee Assistance Programmes or Occupational Health service.
• A range of supports and advice is also available from the Health and Safety Authority on work related stress at:
https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Topics/Workplace_Stress/. The Authority also provides a free online risk assessment tool for addressing work related stress: WorkPositive (www.workpositive.ie).
• The Government’s “In This Together Campaign” also provides information on minding one’s mental health as well as tips on staying active and connected and may be useful for use by employers and workers:
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Air conditioning is not generally considered as contributing significantly to the spread of COVID-19. Switching off air conditioning is not required to manage the risk of COVID-19. For organisations without air conditioning adequate ventilation is encouraged, for example, by opening windows where feasible etc.
For some places of work such as hotels, leisure facilities, offices, dental clinics and hairdressers, the employer needs to put in place control measures to avoid the potential for Legionnaires’ disease before they reopen. Further advice on the prevention of Legionnaires’ disease after the COVID-19 Pandemic is available at:
8. Advice for Employers and Workers
• The Health and Safety Authority Workplace Contact Unit at wcu@hsa.ie and
Tel: 1890 289 389.
• The Health Service Executive, HSElive at Tel: 1850 241850 https://www.hse.ie/eng/hselive/
• Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation Business Support Call Centre – for information on the government supports available to businesses and enterprises affected by COVID-19 – https://dbei.gov.ie/en/. The Call Centre can be contacted at Tel: 01 631 2002 and Email: infobusinesssupport@dbei.gov.ie
• Workplace Relations Commission (WRC): https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/news-media/workplace_relations_notices/covid-19-update.html
Information and Customer Service Tel: 059 9178 990
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• National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI): https://www.nsai.ie/
Tel: 01 807 3800
9. Information on Public Health and Occupational Health and Safety
• Health & Safety Authority: www.hsa.ie
• Health Service Executive:
• Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC):
• European Commission:
• World Health Organization (WHO):
• World Health Organisation (WHO) Getting Your Workplace Ready guide: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/getting-workplace-ready-for-covid-19.pdf
• European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC): https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china
• International Labour Organisation (ILO): https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/safety-and-health-at-work/events-training/events-meetings/world-day-safety-health-at-work/WCMS_742463/lang–en/index.htm
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10. Information on Business Continuity and Supports
• NSAI Workplace Protection and Improvement Guide: https://www.nsai.ie/covid-19workplaceprotection/
• NSAI Retail Protection and Improvement Guide: https://www.nsai.ie/covid-19retailprotection/
• Information on business continuity voucher from IDA, EI and LEOs: