“Resilience and Recovery 2020 – 2021 Plan for Living with COVID-19 is very welcome,” stated Aidan Flynn, General Manager at the Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI), but, he emphasises that much more detail is required.
The Resilience and Recovery 2020 – 2021 Plan for Living with COVID-19  was published on the 15 September. The document in the first instance reminds us all that Individual behaviour change, cooperation and solidarity across sectors and society will continue to be critical to the Government strategy. There are 5 levels of actions, with 5 being the most severe and 1 being the least impacted, Dublin is currently at Level 3+ and the rest of the country at Level 2.
It allows us to visual and aim towards beating the Coronavirus to ensure we get to Level 1 as soon as possible. But there are gaps in the strategy namely the vagueness around some of the guidance. This was manifested most obviously on Friday 18th with the increased restrictions imposed on those is the hospitality sector with little to no pre-notification of what this sector should expect prior to An Taoiseach’s announcement. Development of trust is vital in delivering a truly collaborative solution. That collaboration is dependent on engagement. More must be done to improve the level of engagement between Government agencies and industry stakeholders. Only then will points raised in the plan for living with COVID-19 be most effective. The updated decision-making framework and communications plans are we are told designed to ensure that there will be ample opportunity for timely and comprehensive stakeholder information giving and engagement, media campaigns / informational packages as required led by the relevant Ministers and Departments. This needs to happen now.
It is however important to repeat the key messages contained in the document, as we are in this together and we all must continue to manage our behaviour. Key to success is a collaborative approach that is required to manage the risk effectively:
- The power to control this pandemic is in our hands – individually and collectively
- People in Ireland are willing to follow public health advice to protect themselves and others
- Cooperation and solidarity across sectors and society is vital if this disease is to be contained
- No single preventative measure is adequate to control virus transmission – what matters is a combination
- There is an ongoing need to minimise the risk of cases/clusters and respond decisively when new threats/clusters emerge
- If the disease spreads in the community, it will have the greatest impact on the vulnerable
- Rapid identification and contact tracing of new cases is central to our response
While we are all doing our best the situation would be better if the system allowed those that contravene the guidance to be penalised through on the spot penalties and fines. Having the ability to take on the spot payments as fines should be considered as a matter of urgency. Graduated fixed penalties would act as a deterrent and could be aimed at individuals that flaunt the rules and also businesses that are in contravention of the operating requirements. The net benefit would be that we would not have a ‘paint all with the same brush’ approach. Serial (business) offenders would face the threat of being shut down and those that invest in safety measures can be assured that they can stay open and operational. This would be a smart approach to helping us all ‘Live with Covid’. The inspectorate of the Health & Safety Authority has been supplemented by inspectors from the Workplace Relations Commission, the Department of Agriculture & Food and Environment Health Officers of the Health Services Executive. Providing details of the role of these inspectors and information as to what they are looking for is really important in helping all understand what needs to be done to implement the safety protocols effectively. We are now entering October and there has been little engagement with industry in relation to this inspection approach.
The Living with Covid document provides the following information in relation to the inspection regime :
ü Additional staff have been sanctioned for the HSA Workplace Contact Unit, which provides a national information service regarding COVID-19 issues in workplaces.
Question: How many inspectors are there? How many inspections are being carried out? What are the parameters for inspection? What are the key issues businesses should consider?
ü Additional resources will be provided to the HSA for investigating and managing sectors when outbreaks occur and enable the Authority to provide policy and prevention advice/supports on occupational health related to COVID-19.
Question: When will this be operational?
ü A Regulators Forum will be convened to bring all regulators, Public Health, DBEI, others together to discuss and plan for how compliance and enforcement has worked thus far and what legislative and other measures are needed for the future.
Question: When will this be set up? Why hasn’t this happened to date? Are industry representative bodies going to be invited to participate?
ü The Senior Officials Group will review legislative provisions to consolidate existing COVID-19 measures and any enhancements required to support compliance and enforcement.
ü A new communications plan will be developed to ensure the public health / occupational health message about the safe operating of workplaces to avoid the spread of COVID-19 is enforced and not lost with time.
Question: When will this be published? Why is it taking so long to publish?
ü This plan will be delivered nationally working with both employers and trade unions as compliance and the avoidance of the spread of COVID-19 can only be achieved with a collaborate approach by all those working and managing places of work, [with specific focus on most at-risk sectors, see 2.1.4 above].
Question: when will it be delivered? When we talk about collaboration what does this mean?
The provision of information and guidance is welcomed. FTA Ireland is complimenting the guidance by ensuring members are kept up-to-date and understanding of the requirements necessary to carry out their duties in a safe and sustainable manner. Training and education on this issue is necessary and must be reviewed by all and we must remember to wear face coverings, on public transport, in shops and shopping centres, and in all indoor stetting’s where social distancing is difficult is mandatory.