The Return to Work Safely Protocol for Employers and Workers, is a mandatory protocol applicable to all workplaces, designed to support employers to put measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid 19.
The Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 places a general duty of care on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of their employees.
The Health & Safety Authority (HSA) will have the power to visit and inspect any workplace to ensure that the Protocol is being implemented correctly and has indicated that if workplaces cannot put the measures specified in the Protocol in place, then they should not re-open until they are assured that they are in a position to protect workers, customers and clients who come to the workplace.
The Protocol is non-exhaustive and subject to change so please refer to ongoing government advice.
Key Employer Measures:
1. Communication with Employees
- Engage, consult and collaborate frequently with employees on preventative measures;
- Provide Induction training on Covid19 symptoms, spread, hygiene, cleaning and Covid Response Plan;
- Appoint worker representative (s) to collaborate with employer to support implementation of measures;
- Make available and update all public health advice from HSE, HSA and appropriate sources;
- Communicate clearly guidelines on Hygiene, respiratory etiquette and physical distancing.
2. Covid 19 Response Plan
- Develop or update a Covid-19 response plan (see Ref: Business Continuity Checklist)
- Update Health & Safety Risk Assessments to include controls to address new risks identified;
- Implement a defined structure & response to deal with a suspected case(s) of Covid-19 in the workplace;
- Address contingency measures for increased absenteeism & review sick leave policies.
3. Prompt Identification & Isolation Procedures
- Keep a log of group work (less than 2 m for >15 mins)to facilitate contact tracing;
- Inform all workers of procedures to follow if signs or symptoms occur in the workplace;
- Appoint a designated Manger for dealing with suspected cases
- Identify a designated isolation area;
- Implement procedure for isolation of the worker and for transport home or to hospital;
- Carry out an assessment of the incident;
- Arrange for appropriate cleaning of isolation area and work area of employee;
- Implement temperature testing in line with public health advice if required.
4. Prevention and Control Measures
- Issue a pre-return to work form, to be completed at least 3 days prior to returning to work.
- Ensure appropriate hygiene facilities and adequate hand washing measures are in place;
- Train employees on respiratory and hand hygiene, providing sanitisers, tissues, bins etc;
- Ensure there is no sharing of objects, workspaces, facilities where necessary;
- Provide for physical distancing and signage of 2m apart;
- Organise workers into teams /zones who work and take breaks together;
- Conduct meetings remotely as much as possible;
- Implement controls in canteen/kitchen area or keep closed if measures cannot be implemented;
- Where 2 metre separation between workers cannot be ensured, consider alternative measures :-
- physical barriers/ clear plastic sneeze guards;
- make face masks available;
- Provide one way systems for access and exit to the workplace where possible;
- Erect signage throughout the workplace informing and reminding of procedures;
- Cleaning of all work areas at regular intervals, thorough cleaning of touchable surfaces;
- Work from home where practical and non-essential to be present in the workplace;
- Use PPE as appropriate in accordance with Health & Safety risks and public health advice;
5. Occupational Health
- Update and review Occupational health and safety risk assessments;
- Engage with the Occupational Health or external competent person to ensure effective implementation;
- Ensure that Data Protection rights (Sensitive Information) are respected in any incidents which may arise;
- Implement supports for employees who may be suffering from anxiety or stress.
Key Employee Responsibilities:
- Engage and consult on preventative measures;
- Strictly adhere to all Hygiene and Physical Distancing controls
- Participate in training and keep updated on public health information
- Self isolate and contact their GP if experiencing symptoms
- Contact their Manager immediately if experiencing symptoms
- Complete Return to Work documentation honestly;
- Maintain the Workplace Contact Tracing log;
- Wash Hands frequently.
For further details on areas mentioned above, access the following links or contact People Matters HR Ltd:
Email: [email protected] or call 098-25899.
Return to Work Safely Protocol: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/22829a-return-to-work-safely-protocol/
Business Continuity Plan: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/Business-Continuity-Planning-Checklist-COVID-19.pdf
NSAI Covid 19 Workplace Protection and Improvement Guide: https://www.nsai.ie/covid-19/#Workplace