21 April 2020
By Bryan Smyth
Example of Welsh government must be followed
Labour TD Ged Nash has called for the establishment of a body to regulate and enforce social distancing in the workplace. He explained:
“The reality is that the social distancing requirement is here to stay for some time yet. It will be the new normal for the foreseeable future.
“We all hope that our collective national effort will continue to help stall the march of Covid-19 to a point where we see workplaces re-opened on a phased, sector by sector basis when the expert assessment says it’s safe to do so.
“We need to start planning now for the potential reopening of workplaces and in doing so we need to ensure that workers have the confidence that their health will be protected.
“In the interests of public health, workers and compliant companies, we need a body or mechanism – with input from worker and employer representatives – to provide clarity on essential services and compliance with social distancing in workplaces.
“The Health & Safety Authority, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) and HSE environmental health officers are working day in day out to provide advice and guidance to businesses, workers and the general public. They are doing good work and are sharing approaches and information, but without a formal consolidation of this service, gaps and problems will emerge.
“The creation of a single, go-to body established at the very least on an ad-hoc basis to formally combine this expertise should play a crucial role in the next phase of reopening our economy, as we need a calm and considered sector-by-sector approach rather than a chaotic free-for-all.
“As envisaged, it would also outline more formally procedures for following and enforcing social distancing guidance in workplaces to protect the health of workers and everyone else.
“Any established body must be provided with the necessary resources and powers (including appropriate sanctions) to promote compliance.
“For example, a 2-metre law for social distancing in the workplace has been recently introduced by the Welsh Government to ensure ‘all reasonable actions’ are taken to keep staff safely apart, with penalties for non-compliance. Such measures should be considered here as a matter of urgency.”