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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.

On 31 January, the Government released the revised Work Safely Protocol.

Transitional Protocol: Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

This guidance reflects the most recent public health advice for the safe return and continued safe operation of workplaces. The National Health & Safety Function developed a risk assessment prompt sheet in line with this guidance to support managers implement these requirements.

Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

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

Requirements as per the Transitional Protocol

  • Update existing safety statements
  • Review and update existing risk assessments
  • Revise and update the COVID-19 Response Plan
  • COVID-19 Lead Worker Representative and COVID-19 Response Manager. Revise and implement a plan for dealing with 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.

See Supplementary note for management of suspected COVID 19 cases.

Employees should not attend the workplace if they are displaying any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have a positive COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Measures include:

  • Hand Hygiene
  • Respiratory Hygiene
  • Cleaning
  • Signage

Further Infection Prevention and Control measures

  • Physical Distancing - The requirement for physical distancing in non-clinical areas has been removed however, adopting a physical distance continues to be good practice.
  • Workplaces must have a system in place to provide attendance information and cooperate with local Public Health Offices if a case of COVID-19 and/or an outbreak is confirmed in the workplace.
  • Working from home – The Protocol allows for a phased return to the workplace based on risk assessment. Managers must engage and communicate with employees on this process.
  • Wearing of Facemasks - The requirement to wear a face mask/covering remains in place for specific regulated settings including healthcare.
  • Ventilation –Determining ventilation of enclosed workplace settings should be considered as part of the workplace risk assessment. Ventilation can be achieved through natural means (e.g., opening a window) or by mechanical means e.g. HVAC systems.

Advice and information on working from home

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 1800 420 420 between 10:30-12:00 and 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm Monday to Friday.

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 1800 420 420 for more information.

Lead Worker Representative Checklist

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 1800 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

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

Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Remote working

COVID-19 home working guidelines

Homeworking 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.

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

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.

COVID-19 self-assessment audit tool

The COVID-19 self-assessment audit tool is now available via SmartSurvey. Managers across the HSE are encouraged to complete a repeat audit of the places of work under your control. This ensures continuing compliance with the work safely protocol and aids compliance with current health and safety legislation, HPSC guidelines and best practice.

Generally, this audit should be completed wherever a site or service safety statement is required.

This includes in each:

  • acute hospital, community hospital, residential unit
  • primary care centre
  • non-clinical office centre where the safety statement (and COVID-19 response) is managed at site level
  • ambulance station
  • community service

For more information or assistance contact the NHSF helpdesk on 1800 420 420 or log your health and safety request via my health and safety self service

Vaccination centres

Guidance on OSH requirements for COVID 19 vaccination centres

Vaccination centre prompt sheet

Support services

NHSF Help desk helpline 1800 420 420

Safety and Wellbeing

Occupational Health

Employee Assistance Programme

Additional Resources

Related Content

Page last reviewed: 18/02/2022
Next review due: 18/02/2025