Denis Naughten TD has been informed by the HSE that the Health & Safety Authority gave meat plants 24 hours’ notice of planned inspections of the implementation of Covid-19 measures to curb infection.
“What will really annoy many small businesses is the fact that in terms of Covid-19 inspections, the Health & Safety Authority just landed in on them unannounced, in some instances with a heavy-handed approach, just as they reopened their businesses yet meat plants were forewarned of inspections,” stated Denis Naughten.
“This ‘kid glove’ approach will also come as a shock to the Minister for Agriculture, who told Dáil Éireann last week on advance notice of HSA inspections of meat plants ‘It would not have been appropriate to come in here on that occasion and say that we were going to blitz these premises, because to be forewarned is to be forearmed, but that has happened and the Deputy will be aware it happened’.
We really must question the commitment of the HSA to monitor Covid-19 standards across the country when it took close to two months after the first infections were diagnosed within meat plants before there was a co-ordinated approach to inspections of these plants.
“This is even though the HSA has the capacity to carry out 80 inspections a day and could have inspected all 56 meat plants in a single day. Yet it took this matter to be highlighted again and again on the floor of Dáil Éireann before the HSA eventually started to perform inspections, and now we find out that they gave the plants advance notice.
“How can the HSA stand over such an approach when over 90% of all Covid-19 infections in the workplace over the last two months were centred around meat plants?
“Despite the growing level of infection, it took four weeks of me persistently raising this issue with the HSE, and ultimately having secured a specific focus debate on it in Dáil Éireann, before decisive coordinated action was taken by the HSA and the other agencies.
“But what was the point of such inspections if there was advance notice? No wonder there was such a high level of compliance during inspection.”
Denis Naughten added: “It just beggars belief that the public has gone to such great lengths & sacrifices to fight the spread of this deadly virus, yet State bodies which are supposed to be there to protect us, take a completely different approach and have to be forced to carry out inspections.
“The HSA is quite willing to just land in on a small business without any notice and expect full compliance. Clearly there is no proportionality being applied to this situation,” concluded Denis Naughten.
Comments by Minister Creed: https://www.kildarestreet.com/debate/?id=2020-06-10a.228