Collaborative approach necessary for getting back to work quickly & safely – FTAI

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The Government published the roadmap for reopening business and society on Friday last. We all waited with bated breath to see the level of reduction in restrictions and to better understand how we as a business community could become functional again.

One would be forgiven to feel a little underwhelmed! It is right to be cautious given the devastation this virus is affecting so many people and their families but to be overcautious without engaging industry in developing a robust plan is disappointing.

Urgency needs to be built into the next phases to support industry. The Government point out on page 15 of the document that it ‘has already been working closely with employer and trade union representatives through the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) on a shared approach to a gradual re-starting of economic activity in a safe and measured way’. This section goes on to state: ‘The Government also notes the preparatory work being undertaken by many individual groups, bodies and agencies to assess what safe re-opening of their sectors might look like, at the appropriate time’.

“While the Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI) has fully engaged with Government and stakeholders but we have not seen dedicated commitment by them to focus on all the issues and concerns raised by us over the past number of months,” stated Aidan Flynn, General Manager, FTAI.

“As an example, in early April, the FTAI wrote to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris and the Health Service Executive (HSE) outlining a problem raised by members relating to deliveries to national hospitals. We requested that this issue needs to be given serious consideration as drivers are frequently being made walk into the heart of hospitals and in some cases past isolation wards to make their deliveries. The point being made was that there needed to be national guidance and new protocols developed by the HSE for safe and controlled acceptance of deliveries during this time to minimise the risk of spread of COVID-19,” he added.

The response received, advised that the query had been directed to the National Director of Acute Operations in the HSE. This body said that the complex and changing environment currently being experienced by hospitals needs to ensure that there are no adverse consequences to changing the procedures for accepting courier deliveries. One month after raising the issue, there has been no progress. Drivers who are adhering to the guidance of social distancing and washing hands are still worried and concerned about making essential deliveries to hospitals in this country. By taking a risk assessment view of the situation there are easy solutions to this issue. That is, carry out a risk assessment, document it and develop and implement new control measures. The general guidance should come from the HSE in consultation with the Health & Safety Authority (HSA). No matter how busy or difficult a situation is it must change and change quickly.

“We in the private sector already know that if we do not develop and adapt to new ways of doing business, we will have no business. Likewise, hospitals must deliver leadership when it comes to controlling the risk of spread of this disease and that includes making provision for the safe delivery of goods. This is an important point when we consider how we are all going to have to be dynamic in our approach to getting back to work quickly and safely. It will require collaboration and respect for each other’s position. That means sometimes we are not happy with the response but there should always be an open door to coming to a solution that can work for everyone. We need to develop trust that the issues are being listened to that they are respected! The Government, the HSE and all the key influencers in dictating policy around getting back to work must listen to the issues being raised. There must be a sectorial approach taken to developing guidance and information that leaves no ambiguity in the future direction we must take. We are reliant on this dynamic to get us back to work.  We are doing our bit!,” concluded Aidan.