Levels of Covid safety concerns on building sites highlight need for greater oversight, says Bríd Smith TD
People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith has described as “extremely worrying” the levels of HSA inspections on building sites that show widespread failings in relation to Covid safety protocols.
Citing a recent reply to a Dáil question (below) that showed 43% of inspections found areas that needed improvements after inspections, the TD said this supported anecdotal reports that the industry had high levels of noncompliance with Covid safety procedures.
The parliamentary question reply from Minister Leo Varadkar showed that in 43% of inspections of building sites there were issues with Covid regulations that needed “improvements”.
Bríd Smith TD said in reaction to this reply: “There are two concerns here- the first is that we need to know the nature of these failings on sites. The construction industry is one of the largest workplaces and I have received worrying reports from workers about the noncompliance of some sites with basic Covid safety measures.
“Additionally, we know from talking to workers that follow up, in terms of tracing after positive Covid cases, is not adequate. The 43% noncompliance in these cases is extremely worrying considering the total number of sites we have in the state.”
The TD also said the total number of inspections remained inadequate.
She said: “While these figures are an improvement from the numbers we saw back in April and May they are still wholly inadequate. If we are to properly enforce Covid safety in workplaces, then workers need to be sure we have an agency and regulatory oversight that is up for the job. 14 inspections on building sites since Level 5 restrictions came in is nowhere near the number we need and, tellingly, while we debate imposing fines on individuals there is no such determination to fine employers who are in breach of these regulations.”
The TD called for more inspectors in the HSA and greater enforcement measures where sites and employers were found to be in breach of safety protocols.
For Written Answer on : 03/11/2020
Question Number(s): 197 Question Reference(s): 33317/20
Department: Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Asked by: Bríd Smith T.D.
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment the number of onsite inspections by HSA personal of construction sites since the announcement of level 5 restrictions; the findings of these onsite inspections in relation to Covid-19 protocols and guidelines; the number of complaints to the HSA regarding workplaces and breaches of Covid-19 guidelines since level 5 restrictions were put in place – Bríd Smith.
Since the introduction of Level 5 restrictions under the National Framework for Living with COVID-19 the Health and Safety Authority has undertaken 27 inspections in the construction sector of which 14 addressed COVID-19 measures.
I have been informed that the findings from the inspections addressing COVID-19 indicate the following;
- 86% of workplaces had COVID-19 measures in place.
- 86% of workplaces had COVID-19 Response plans in place.
- 64% of workplaces had a Lead Worker Rep.
In 43% of cases a report of inspection was issued in relation to the COVID-19 control measures in place. A report of inspection sets out areas where improvements should be made.
I am further informed that the Health and Safety Authority has received 16 complaints around COVID-19 measures in the same period in relation to workplaces in other sectors. These complaints are being followed-up by the Authority.
I would add that, overall, the Health and Safety Authority has noted a high level of compliance with the Return to Work Safely Protocol, to date, across all sectors which is a positive indication that the majority of employers and employees are taking a responsible and proactive approach to compliance with the Protocol.
In addition to inspections, the Health and Safety Authority continues to provide advice and support to employers and employees on how best to implement COVID-19 measures in the workplace through its helpline and website. It has also developed checklists and templates for use by employers, workers and worker representatives, and further material is being developed.
Any employee who has concerns about compliance with COVID-19 issues, or any other workplace health and safety issue, can contact the Health and Safety Authorty Workplace Contact Unit (WCU) on a confidential basis at 1890 289 389 or by sending an email to [email protected]. If following such a complaint, there are serious concerns about a particular workplace, the Health and Safety Authority, or another agency or tasked with inspecting workplace compliance with the Protocol, will follow-up as appropriate.