Updated Protocol for Employers on Ventilation, Vaccinations & Antigen Testing

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New guidance to protect workers & help people get back to work 

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar T.D. has published updated guidance on ventilation, vaccinations and antigen testing to protect workers and help people get back to work.

The updated Work Safely Protocol reflects the most up to date public health advice for the workplace. It sets out the range of measures required to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace, including information on how to approach the use of antigen testing.

The Tánaiste said: “Our advice is still to continue to work from home where possible. However, with some sectors being able to reopen over the coming weeks, it is timely to update our protocol for workplaces to make sure that employers have clear guidance on how to keep their staff and customers safe, based on the most up to date public health advice.

“We know much more about the virus now. We now know the importance of ventilation for example, of letting fresh air circulate in a room and how much safer outdoors is to indoors.

“We now have a Government endorsed report on antigen testing and I know many employers are using it already. I am encouraging more to do so.  This document gives clear information on how to use antigen testing appropriately in the workplace. It sets out that these tests should be used as an additional health and safety measure and not as a substitute for any other precautions. I am also calling on employers to consider how they can improve ventilation in workplaces. Even simple actions like airing rooms or keeping a window open can make a difference.

“It is really important to say that the best way to prevent the virus from spreading, the best way to protect each other and to make sure that as we reopen, we stay open, is to keep doing the things we have all been doing. Wash hands, keep a distance, wear a mask, stay at home and contact your GP if you have symptoms. This advice hasn’t changed and is still the most important.

“We now have a vaccination programme and are vaccinating approximately 270,000 people per week. Over a third of our adult population has had at least one dose now and we hope to have the vast majority of our adult population registered by the end of June. Vaccination is and will remain voluntary so it’s important that employers have guidance on how to manage any unvaccinated workers. This document gives that information.

“Businesses have had an incredibly challenging few months. Although I know many will be delighted to get their doors open again, I know many will also be a little nervous. I hope this document gives some reassurance. Businesses have put in an enormous effort over the past year to keep their staff and customers safe. The Government is committed to continuing to help over the next few months, as people get back on their feet.”

Damien English TD, Minister for Business, Employment and Retail said: “The updated Work Safely Protocol is an important tool-kit for employers in Ireland as Government efforts continue towards an orderly and safe reopening of the economy and society. The document contains important guidance which can be followed to protect workplaces, workers, and customers.

As more people return to work over the coming months it is important that they can do so safely.  Government will continue to engage with the business community and their staff to keep everyone safe and to help prevent the virus spreading from the workplace into the wider community.

While the virus has stabilised in recent weeks, we still need everyone to play their part to keep Covid under control so we can get back to having a strong, healthy economy. I am very optimistic about where our economy can go in the next couple of years, and I would like to thank businesses and workers for their ongoing efforts during these tough times.”

The Work Safely Protocol was first published last year. It has been developed in close consultation with employers and trade unions through the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF). Such cooperation is an essential part of our collective efforts to manage the pandemic.

Since May 2020, over 33,000 Covid-19 inspections around compliance with the Protocol have been carried out by a number of State Agencies.

The Health and Safety Authority will remain the lead Agency in co-ordinating compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. It will continue to be supported in this role by inspectors from a range of other Government Departments and State Bodies.

In addition to the Protocol document there is now a range of complementary material available for the workplace, including a checklist and posters which may make it easier to communicate the measures advised (Work Safely Resources)