27 May 2022

Almost 1,000 complaints to HSENI over return to work

The Executive have said they will look at all available compliance and enforcement measures.

Almost 1,000 complaints to HSENI over return to work

The Health and Safety Executive (HESNI) has received almost 1,000 complaints from employees who feel their concerns over Covid-19 safeguarding are not being addressed.

Of the 981 complaints received since March 16, the Executive investigated 661 and referred 325 to other appropriate bodies such as Environmental Health teams.

Causeway Coast and Glens councillor Kathleen McGurk urged the HSENI to use its powers of enforcement under the 1978 Health and Safety at Work Order.

She 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 practical.

“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.”

The comments come after HSENI made a presentation to Stormont’s Economy Committee, at which Robert Kidd, HSENI Chief Executive said employees should first raise concerns with the organisation or trade unions.

Where employees feel their concerns are not being addressed, they should report it to the HSENI, who will look at all compliance and enforcement measures available to them.

Cllr 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.”

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