News & Media

Only 1 extra HSA inspector hired since Govt formed reveals Sherlock

28 March 2021

Statement by Senator Marie Sherlock
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht
  • No extra HSA inspectors hired in second half of 2020.
  • Only one Inspector hired so far in 2021, another two due by April.
  • 802 Covid related complaints so far in 2021.

Labour Employment spokesperson Senator Marie Sherlock has said she is very concerned at the failure to increase the number of Health and Safety Authority inspectors in the second half of 2020 despite the Covid pandemic and the increased risks in the workplace, with parliamentary questions showing only one additional recruitment so far in 2021, another 2 due by end of April, but over 800 Covid related complaints received by the HSA so far this year.

Senator Sherlock said it is incredible that more additional staff were not hired to protect essential workers and ensure those returning to work last year were doing so in a safe environment during the pandemic.

Senator Sherlock said:

"We will need a very robust inspection regime from the Health and Safety Agency as more workplaces reopen, and those found breaking the rules must be held to account. We saw throughout 2020 the impact of Covid-19 outbreaks in workplaces like meat plants that highlights the need for a rigorous inspection regime.

“Hopefully many more workplaces will reopen later this year, and workers must be assured that there will be a robust proactive inspection regime to ensure safety. We need to reassure people that when the return to work comes, it will be in a safe environment.

“I find it incredible to think that the government did not increase the capacity of the HSA to carry out inspections last year at a crucial time for our workers. This is not good enough, and the government need to show a bit of cop in when it comes to protecting workers. Not one extra HSA Inspector was hired in the second half of 2020.

“It is welcome that more inspectors are now being hired, but I am concerned it took this long.

“Further information provided to me though parliamentary questions show that since the new year alone up to 12th March, the HSA received 802 Covid related complaints.

“Furthermore, the investigations carried out by the HSA found that almost a quarter of workplaces do not have Lead Worker Representatives, designated workers to work with employers to prevent the spread of Covid in the workplace. This highlights the need to increase random inspections in workplaces to ensure that workers health and safety is being adhered to.

“Enforcement will only succeed with enough inspectors on the ground. Workers also need to have confidence that they can make a complaint without fear of later being victimised by their employer.

ENDS

Notes to Editors: Dáil Question tabled by Labour TD Ged Nash:

For Written Answer on : 24/03/2021
Question Number(s): 164 Question Reference(s): 14817/21
Department: Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Asked by: Ged Nash T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment the number of new HSA inspectors hired since June 2020 and January 2021, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

Since the 1st of January 2021, the Health and Safety Authority  (HSA) has hired one Grade II Inspector and a further two Grade III Inspectors will take up employment in early April. 

The HSA is actively recruiting Grade III inspectors at present and its current campaign had a closing date for receipt of applications of Friday, 19th of March last.  It is anticipated that successful candidates from this competition will take up employment from May 2021 onwards.

As part of Budget 2021, an additional allocation of €4.2m was awarded to the HSA for 2021 to cover additional staffing resources in respect of COVID-19 and Brexit related activities.

The Health and Safety Authority is the lead agency in relation to the assessment of compliance with the Work Safely Protocol and, in that regard, its inspection resources have been supplemented during the period in question by inspectorates from other State Agencies/Government Departments, who are carrying out COVID-19 compliance checks as part of their normal duties.

During the period from June to the 31st of December 2020 the HSA has not hired additional staff at inspector grade. However, during this time, 12 additional posts were filled in its Workplace Contract Unit to assist the HSA in managing the increased number of calls from employers and employees around compliance with the Work Safely Protocol. In addition, staff from my Department were also seconded to the HSA to support the work of the Workplace Contact Unit.