PBP Ventilation Bill to be debated in Dáil on Wednesday
Clean air in workplaces essential in the fight against Covid-19
At a press conference today in Dublin, People Before Profit outlined the details of their Workplace Ventilation (Covid-19) Bill 2021 (attached), which is to be debated in the Dáil on Wednesday.
The party accused the government of ignoring the importance of ventilation in the fight against Covid-19.
The Bill seeks to give workers the ‘right to clean air by imposing minimum ventilation standards in workplaces based around CO2 levels. It effectively creates minimum fresh air standards and would give employees the ability to request health and safety inspections.
The Bill defines clean air as having fewer than 900 ppm of CO2 – and puts the onus on employers to achieve this by whatever means possible and/or to install air filtration. (Employers would still also be subject to existing health and safety laws on minimum standards of heating for a comfortable workplace.) The rationale for doing this is that almost every building where people gather aside from private homes is someone’s workplace.
The Bill also empowers the Health and Safety Authority to measure clean air in the workplace and to issue improvement or prohibition notices as appropriate – similar to what happens to restaurants that breach food safety rules. It empowers workers to request that the HSA carry out an inspection of the air in their workplace. This aims to address a major flaw in existing health and safety legislation, namely that it is solely up to the HSA which workplaces it chooses to inspect.
Paul Murphy TD said: “Whilst Ireland has an extremely high level of vaccination, we can see that we also have the highest rate of Covid-19 infection. This is extremely problematic and shows that the government plan of vaccines and restrictions is not a sustainable solution.
“What’s needed is a “Vaccines Plus” strategy of Prevention (masks, ventilation, hygiene), Vaccination and Control (PCR and antigen testing, backward and forward contact tracing, supported isolation), as well as building a properly resourced National Health Service.
“Ventilation is key to the fight against Covid-19 and to keep people as safe as possible in their workplaces. We have known since September 2020 that Covid is an airborne virus, and yet the government has done nothing to ensure that proper ventilation is present in workplaces. This Bill would do this. We are calling on all parties in the Dáil to support this Bill so that we can ensure clean air in the workplace and so that we can protect people as much as possible from Covid infection.”
Orla Hegarty, Assistant Professor at the UCD School of Architecture and former Member of the Expert Group on the Role of Ventilation in Reducing Transmission of COVID-19, said: “Making indoor air as clean as it is outdoors can stop the spread. Ventilation & filtration work for every variant (known & unknown) and also reduce other airborne illnesses such as colds & flu, & also reduce pollution, allergies and asthma. HEPA filtration is proven technology, used in operating theatres to prevent infection and in factories making computer chips & medical devices. Clean air standards can keep all buildings open for the long term and restore confidence- in the same way that they do for water quality, food hygiene & fire safety”.