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. The National Health and Safety Function will continue to review and update supporting documents in line with government and public health guidance.
On 31 January, the Government released the revised Work Safely Protocol.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
Support and advice
Log a request via my health and safety self service
HSE Health and Safety Helpdesk
Phone: 1800 420 420
Monday to Friday 10.30am to 12 noon and 2.00pm to 3.30pm
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.
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 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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
NHSF Help desk helpline 1800 420 420