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.
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.
- Appoint and train a COVID-19 Lead Worker Representative and COVID-19 Response Manager
- Update existing safety statements
- Review existing risk assessments and identify new risks
- Develop a COVID-19 site Response Plan
- Employees complete a pre-return to workplace form
- 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.
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.
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?
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 www.hse.ie/safetyandwellbeing
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
- Management of contractors, deliveries, service users, visitors
- Cleaning protocols and waste management
- Fire safety and first aid
- Use and sourcing of PPE
- Delivery of statutory OSH training
- Incident management to include reporting and review
- Access and egress circulation
- Address water and legionella risks
- Plant and equipment (lifts, ventilation systems, standby generators)
- Smoking areas
- Welfare and facilities
- Fatigue, stress management, self-care
- Arrangements for conducting meetings and clinical engagements
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:
Risk assessments applying to specific services
Biological agents - laboratories
Acute healthcare settings (excluding laboratories)
Residential care facilities
Health and Social Care Services
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.
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.
NHSF Help desk helpline 1850 420 420