Councillor McGurk has stated the Health and Safety Executive must use its powers of enforcement under the Heath and Safety at Work Order (1978) to ensure the safety of all employees returning to work.
Speaking after HSENI made a presentation to Stormont’s Economy Committee, Cllr McGurk said “whilst COVID-19 is primarily a public heath issue, there is a duty on all employers under the existing Health and Safety legislation to ensure their workplace is safe from risks and protect employees against harm so far as reasonably practicable. HSENI currently has power to issue prohibition notices where employers fail to carry out this duty. I welcome that HSENI want to take a collaborative approach with employers to help them adjust to the current COVID-19 risks, however where employers do not take appropriate mitigation measures to ensure their employees safety and continue to operate with as business as usual approach, HSENI must act to enforce the legislation”.
I have been contacted by employees who have felt unsafe going to work at businesses where social distancing measures cannot be put in place. I acknowledge that many businesses have done great work to setup up new systems and procedures, to ensure all employees returning or continuing to work have been protected, however it is important that all employees feel safe and HSENI has a role to play in this.”
During their presentation to committee, HSENI highlighted that since the 16th March they have received 981 complaints, investigated 661 and referred 325 to other appropriate bodies such as Council Environmental Health teams. Robert Kidd, HSENI Chief Executive stated that employees should first try to raise their concerns with the organisation and trade unions, but where employees felt concerns are not being addressed, they should report to HSENI. He assured the committee that where employers are not taking action, HSENI will look at all compliance and enforcement measures open to them.
Councillor McGurk added, “The message here is still Stay Home. Save Lives. Businesses should be adhering to this where social distancing at work is not possible.”