Minister Humphreys publishes National Return to Work Safely Protocol

May 11, 2020

The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD has published the National “Return to Work Safely Protocol”. The Protocol is designed to support employers and workers to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, when the economy begins to slowly open up, following the temporary closure of most businesses during the worst phase of the current pandemic.

The Protocol is the result of a collaborative effort by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Health Services Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health. The following requirements, among others, are included in the Protocol:

  1. Each workplace will appoint at least one lead worker representative, who will work with the employer to ensure that COVID-19 measures are strictly adhered to in the workplace.

  2. Employers will issue a pre-return to work form for workers to complete at least 3 days in advance of the return to work.

  3. Before a workplace reopens, there will be COVID-19 induction training for all workers to make sure that they are up to speed on the Public Health Advice and Guidance.

  4. The plan should include measures relevant to COVID-19, for example, social distancing, the provision of hand sanitisers, tissues and clinical waste bags, clear procedures around handwashing and respiratory etiquette, and ensuring proper ventilation on site.

  5. If a worker displays any symptoms of the virus during work hours, the designated manager must direct that person to a designated isolation area, along a designated route, all the time maintaining a 2 metre distance, and arrange for that person to remain in isolation before arranging for them to be transported home, or to a medical facility, avoiding public transport.

  6. The employer must also carry out a full risk assessment of the incident to see what, if any, further action needs to be taken.

  7. Breaks and rest periods should be organised so as to facilitate social distancing

  8. In settings where 2 metre separation is not possible, alternative protective measures such as installation of physical barriers/plastic sneeze guards should be put in place

The Protocol is a living document and will change over time, in compliance with the latest public health advice.