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Work safely - arrangements for COVID-19

In line with the revised Government’s Work Safely Protocol managers must complete a comprehensive review of their current systems to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Current Government advice to public health service employees is to revert to working from home unless it is necessary to attend the workplace in person.

The requirement to work from home where possible is a key measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace and to alleviate the current demands on our health services.

In the case of employees whose roles require their physical presence in the workplace, employers must ensure that they have implemented robust return to workplace procedures in line with the Work Safely Protocol. The HSE’s approach to the implementation of this Protocol is described below.

Health and Safety will continue to review and update supporting documents in line with Government and Public Health Guidance.

Click here for advice and information on working from home

Click here for information on reporting work-related incidents of COVID -19

Support and advice

Log a request via my health and safety self service

Telephone the health and safety helpdesk on 1850 420 420 between 10:30-12:00 and 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm Monday to Friday.

Implementing the Work Safety Protocol

Elements of this protocol will be applicable to all HSE workplaces and services and there are a number of steps to complete.

These are:

  1. Appoint and train a COVID-19 Lead Worker Representative and COVID-19 Response Manager
  2. Update existing safety statements
  3. Review existing risk assessments and identify new risks
  4. Develop a COVID-19 site Response Plan
  5. Employees complete a pre-return to workplace form
  6. Organise COVID-19 induction training for staff

Consultation and communication with staff is essential at every stage.

Appoint and train a COVID-19 Lead Worker Representative and COVID-19 Response Manager

COVID-19 Lead Worker Representative

The Lead Worker Representative will help put in place measures to prevent the spread of COVID -19. They will assist with communicating health advice around COVID-19 in the workplace.

The Lead Worker Representative can either be a member of staff or management. They must have clear governance structures to escalate issues to local senior management.

A Lead Worker training package has now been developed for this role and is available on HSELanD. Contact the National Health & Safety Function on 1850 420 420 for more information.

Lead Worker Representative Checklist CF 058 00

Appointment process for Lead Worker Representatives (LWR)

  • management must identify locations and services requiring LWR
  • through Human Resources, local management must agree with the Trade Unions (TU) the numbers required (at least 1)
  • the TUs will agree a nomination(s) (full-time Trade Union Official)
  • appointment nomination advanced by TU to management and agreed nominations appointed
  • if the TU is unable to nominate, then management should seek expressions of interest from staff (no election required)

COVID-19 Response Manager

The COVID-19 Response Manager Role is a key support to the Lead Worker Representative. They will provide governance around implementing COVID-19 requirements and provide an escalation pathway where non-compliance is identified.

See: Summary of key support roles in the implementation of the HSE’s Return to Workplace Protocol

What supports are available for Lead Worker Representatives and COVID-19 Response Managers?

The employer will provide the Lead Worker Representative(s) and the COVID-19 Response Manager with the necessary facilities to enable them to consult with employees or prepare any submissions or reports. This may include protected time and access to a meeting room, photocopier, communications, equipment etc.

What is the COVID-19 Escalation Pathway for non-conformances?

COVID 19 Escalation Pathway

Update existing safety statements

Every workplace and service must have a safety statement. Managers are responsible for ensuring it is completed. If you do not have one contact the help desk on 1850 420 420 or go to

Your safety statement needs to be reviewed:

  • at least annually, or
  • when its contents are no longer valid, or
  • to reflect changes in risk and control measures associated with COVID-19 or
  • when directed by a health and safety authority inspector.

Hazard control service arrangements

Review hazard arrangements in section 4 of Writing your Site or Service Safety Statement Guideline with the accompanying template for Site Specific Safety Statement

Plan new hazard arrangements required in Section 4 of Writing your Site or Service Safety Statement Guideline for COVID-19.

Update risk assessments

You will need to review your risk assessments to ensure that the risks associated with COVID-19 are reduced.

You can use your risk assessment to help you keep a record of:

  • who might be harmed and how
  • what you’re already doing to control the risks
  • what further action you need to take to control the risks
  • who needs to carry out the action
  • when the action is needed by

Your risk assessments may include the following:

Social distancing

COVID-19 Social distancing working environment risk assessment prompt sheet

Work Safety

COVID-19 Work Safely Protocol Risk Assessment Prompt Sheet

Meeting risk assessment prompt sheet

COVID-19 home working guidelines

Remote working

COVID-19 home working guidelines

Homeworking risk assessment form

Working from home during COVID-19 – workstation setup

Staff travelling

Staff travel during COVID 19 outbreak risk assessment prompt sheet

Guidance on staff travel during COVID 19 outbreak

Manual handling

COVID-19 manual handling training risk assessment prompt sheet

Manual handling training high-level risk assessment rationale prompt sheet

COVID-19 manual handling risk assessment form

Risk assessments applying to specific services

Biological agents - laboratories

Guidance to support the review and updating of laboratory biological agents risk assessments during COVID 19

Health and Safety RA form to support the review and updating of Laboratory BA Risk Assessment during COVID 19

Acute healthcare settings (excluding laboratories)

Guidance on reviewing and updating Biological Agents Risk Assessments in all HSE Acute Healthcare Settings (excluding Laboratories) during COVID-19

Biological Agents Risk Assessment in HSE Acute HC Facilities (excl Lab) during COVID 19

Residential care facilities

Guidance on reviewing and updating Biological Agents Risk Assessment in HSE Residential Care Facilities during COVID 19

Biological Agents Risk Assessment for HSE Residential Care Facilities during COVID 19

Health and Social Care Services

Guidance on reviewing and updating Biological Agents Risk Assessments for Health and Social Care Services Carrying out home visits during COVID-19

Biological Agents Risk Assessment for Health and Social Care Services during Covid-19

Implementing additional control measures from the risk assessments

  • Put in place any additional control measures arising from the risk assessment process.
  • If the risk assessment shows that the risk is adequately controlled, document the assessment. Continue to monitor and review.
  • If the risk assessment shows that the risk is not adequately controlled then put in place further control measures.

COVID-19 Response Plan

The COVID -19 Response Plan is an essential part of your safety management system. It details the arrangements needed to manage and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Each site/service must have its own plan.

Contact log for recording any instances of close contacts

The COVID-19 contact logprovides a template to support mangers and can be included in the COVID-19 Response Plan.

Managers and employees should keep a contact log to record any instances of close contacts. The log should be completed daily. This information will assist with contact tracing.

You can record information for the contact log using:

  • sign-in sheets
  • clocking-in systems
  • visitor log books
  • delivery personnel details
  • third party service provider visitor information

The information should be stored securely and be readily available, as appropriate.

Who is classed as a close contact

Healthcare Workers (HCWs) (excluding laboratory workers) who:

have a cumulative unprotected exposure during one work shift (ie any breach or omission of appropriate PPE) for more than 15 minutes face-to-face (< 1 meters distance) to a case


have any unprotected exposure of their eyes or mouth or mucus membranes, to the bodily fluids (mainly respiratory secretions, for example, coughing, but also includes blood, stools, vomit and urine) of the case


have any unprotected exposure (ie any breach or omission of the appropriate PPE) while present in the same room when an aerosol generating procedure is undertaken on the case. Any HCW who meets the above criteria will be considered a close contact for 14 days after this contact


Laboratory HCWs who have not fully adhered to good laboratory practice for 15 minutes or more in one work shift, while testing samples are classified as close contacts.

The contact log should be kept for at least 14 days, in line with HPSC guidance on infection control.

Plan for suspected cases of COVID-19

You must have a plan in place to manage instances where an employee, visitor, contractor or other becomes symptomatic while at work or in the workplace. For more information see Supplementary note for management of suspected COVID 19 cases.

See also: Infographic for management of suspected COVID 19 cases

Pre-return to workplace form for employees

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, all employees must complete a Pre-Return to Workplace form

The COVID-19 Pre-Return to Workplace Form must be completed by employees and submitted to their Line Manager prior to the reopening of the workplace following temporary closures due to local and regional restrictions. Managers will need to review the form to ensure it is safe for their staff to return to work.

The form will ask employees to confirm they have not in the past 14 days:

  • had symptoms of COVID-19
  • been diagnosed or suspected of COVID-19
  • been in close contact with someone confirmed or suspected of COVID-19
  • been self-isolating or cocooning

Following an extended period of absence from a workplace (for example following annual leave) or where the employee may only access the workplace infrequently, managers may request employees to verify that there has been no changes to their original pre-return to workplace form.

Records are kept in line with HSE policy. All data must be processed and controlled in line with the principles of the GDPR.

COVID-19 induction training

COVID-19 induction training must be completed by all staff.

A training package, developed by the NHSF, can be completed on HSELanD. A certificate of attendance will be issued to participants.

Employees must also be made familiar with local arrangements for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Vaccination centres

Guidance on OSH requirements for COVID 19 vaccination centres

Vaccination centre prompt sheet

Support services

NHSF Help desk helpline 1850 420 420

Safety and Wellbeing

Occupational Health

Employee Assistance Programme

Additional Resources

Related Content

Page last reviewed: 18/06/2020
Next review due: 18/06/2023