The government has decided that everyone, until 12 April 2020, can only travel to and from work or for the purposes of work only where the work is an essential health, social care or other essential service and cannot be done from home.
Government has this evening 28 March published its list of essential services as outlined in the attached document. The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to employers and employees as to what constitutes an essential service where workers cannot work from home and have no option but to travel to work.
The government also recognises that many companies in Ireland are critical to global supply chains that are responding to the COVID-19 crisis, and many companies also perform critical global roles in other aspects of medicine, as well as security, cyber, cloud and data centre infrastructure. It is intended that these essential global roles are encompassed within this national guidance.
What employers should do
- refer to this guidance to decide whether your organisation is providing an essential service; it is not necessary to seek official authorisation
- if you are providing an essential service, you should identify those employees (including sub-contractors and so on) who are essential to the provision of that service and notify them. This can be done by category of employee or by individual; it could include all employees of the organisation
- if you are providing an essential service, latest public health guidance should be followed at all times
In the manufacturing sector, there are many companies that you provide services to that are considered essential. You should engage with your clients (public and private) as soon as possible to establish if they deem you central to their operations. If so, you will need to establish what employees are essential to your operation in serving your clients. We recommend that you get your clients to provide a written letter to the staff you deem essential.
Non Essential Services
If you are not engaged in the provision of essential services, then you are not permitted to travel to and from work until 12 April 2020.
There will be a grace period until 6pm on Monday 30 March for people who need to make necessary arrangements to wind down their activities in an orderly way. This should however be done in a way that minimises travel and personal interaction as much as possible.
In exceptional circumstances, it is accepted that some extra time will be needed for a wind down of activity, or necessary for a site to continue to operate at a reduced level of activity, for example in complex manufacturing processes or very large construction projects.
Construction services provided under the following headings are considered to be essential:
- essential health and related projects relevant to the COVID-19 crisis, and supplies necessary for such projects
- repair/construction of critical road and utility infrastructure
- delivery of emergency services to businesses and homes on an emergency call-out basis in areas such as electrical, plumbing, glazing and roofing
All contractors contracted by Government Departments or Public Bodies will be advised as to whether a project is deemed essential or not.
Members are advised to review the attached document and make a determination as to whether their specific construction projects can be deemed to be an essential service or not.
Director General of the CIF
Following the Taoiseach’s statement on new Covid-19 measurs that outlined workers must stay at home in all circumstances except where work is an essential health, social care or other essential service that cannot be done from home.
According to Minister Simon Harris, construction is not deemed as essential service and as such construction workers should stay at home effective from midnight last night.
The Government is finalising a list of essential services to be completed later today that might outline some limited forms of construction essential to combatting Covid-19 directly.
In the meantime, the CIF is calling on its members should secure construction sites immediately. We recommend that members sending teams to secure sites should call ahead to Gardai to inform them.
As ever, the construction industry is ready to help combat Covid-19 in any way possible. The CIF will continue to engage with Government and the HSE to explore ways the industry can contribute.
The ICTU and CIF are advising construction industry companies and their employees to comply with HSE guidance and protecting themselves from the Covid-19 virus.
General Secretary of Congress Patricia King said
‘Essentially workers should adhere to social distancing guidelines, carry out regular hand washing and use gloves and masks if possible to help contain the spread of the virus in the workplace. The HSE has issued guidelines on the Coronavirus and we recommend that this guidance is adhered to by workers in the construction industry. Congress will continue to watch the situation closely , she said.
Tom Parlon, Director General, CIF, stated
‘Social distancing’ and compliance with HSE guidance on Covid-19 is now critical to the continuation of the construction industry and for our nation. We urge contractors and workers to work together to enforce social distancing regardless of any impacts on productivity or deadlines.
The CIF is also asking companies to remind workers that social distancing is critical off-site and on the way to the site. Workers should not travel in groups and while visiting local businesses (shops etc) must maintain the 1-2 metre distance guideline. Construction workers are to be commended for continuing to operate safely as they deliver essential projects that enable essential services including emergency health facilities, sewerage, electricity, power, data and water, all critical to society.
It is absolutely critical that all HSE guidelines are implemented and enforced fully. We are again asking members to ensure that they are in compliance.
It’s our understanding that non-compliance with the HSE Public Health Guidelines could be deemed to be a breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requiring provision of a safe place of work.
Non-compliance would also put your employees, their family and the wider community at risk. As such, we are asking you to remain vigilant with HSE guidelines as it is the only way the industry can continue to operate in these difficult times. We would also ask you to remind employees that they must comply with social distance guidelines outside the site for example, in local shops, entering the site, and whilst travelling to and from work.
Again, where you think it isn’t possible to meet these guidelines, you should engage with your client immediately to establish a way of working that does comply so activity can continue in a safe and compliant manner.
The CIF is also in discussions with the Government to secure a commitment that contracting authorities will not penalise contractors for issues pertaining to the adaption of these essential safety guidelines.
All feedback from Government is that they want construction activity to continue where it is safe to do so in compliance with HSE guidelines.
The Construction Industry Federation is constantly advising its members in relation to all HSE Guidelines and Chief Medical Officer recommendations pertaining to Covid-19. The Federation has issued Guidelines for Actions to take now to provide for health and safety for management of construction sites and behaviours for construction site personnel.
Industry is continuing to deliver on contractually agreed commitments for public and private sector clients while adhering to HSE and Chief Medical officer requirements/ recommendations. The industry and its 147,000 employees are critical to both the economy and wider society as essential emergency works, housing, hospitals, roads, schools and other projects are delivered.
Construction companies are doing all they can to keep their workers in employment in the safest possible environment. Industry will continue to follow all Government guidelines to ensure the safety of these employees and the general public whilst engaging in construction activity
As construction sites are workplaces, construction companies must observe the HSE Guidelines on dealing with Covid-19. Construction companies have and are adapting to the social distancing guidelines as are other industries such as manufacturing, retail and transport so they can keep essential parts of the economy operating during the outbreak.
Many companies have now embedded social distancing into their daily routines including measures such as staggered work, social distancing in canteens, employees taking lunch individually. They now run induction talks on entry to work and hold regular ‘toolbox’ talks to constantly reinforce new safety guidelines. Building sites are complex workplaces and employers and employees are working together to addresses any issues of concern that arise.
The industry will continue to work with the Government and follow advice and guidelines on this issue as they evolve over the coming weeks.
The CIF does not condone any behaviours that contradict the HSE’s guidelines. Any such behaviour should be reported to employers so the issue can be addressed.
The Covid-19 situation is evolving on a daily basis.
Today, CIF members are continuing to deliver on their contractually agreed commitments for public and private sector clients while adhering to HSE and Chief Medical officer requirements/ recommendations. The industry and its 147,000 employees are critical to both the economy and wider society as we deliver essential housing and infrastructure projects.
Our members will continue to take every possible step to ensure the safety of these employees and the general public in construction activity. The Federation is in constant contact with Government in relation to Coronavirus and its impact on construction activity. As construction sites are workplaces, members must observe the HSE Guidelines on dealing with Covid-19.
Staff Contact List
Martin Lang, CIF Director of Main Contracting
Effects on Contracts
Siobhan Kenny, Construction Lawyer, Eugene F. Collins Solicitors
Human Resources Considerations
Jean Winters, CIF Director of Industrial Relations
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Continuity planning is important at this time and the latest advice on this matter, including a checklist of preparatory actions can be found at: dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Business-Continuity-Planning-A-checklist-of-Preparatory-Actions-in-Responding-to-the-COVID-19-Outbreak.html
Members are advised to take practical steps to provide assurance to workers and to protect against infection. More in depth guidance on this is available on the HSE website. Employees should be advised of the following simple measures to protect against the spreading the virus:
- wash hands regularly
- practice good respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze
- put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- do not touch eyes, nose or mouth if hands are not clean
The HSE has prepared a poster which can be displayed in all workplaces and sites. This poster can be downloaded at: dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/COVID-19-Public-Health-Advice-Poster.pdf
Employees Who have Been to an Affected Area or in Close Contact with a Confirmed Case
Employees will need to be tested for coronavirus if they have symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and fever) and:
- have been to an affected area in the last 14 days
- in close contact with a confirmed case i.e. face-to-face contact / spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of an infected person / living in the same house or shared accommodation as an infected person.
- in a health care centre / hospital where patients with coronavirus were being treated.
Places where there is a spread of coronavirus (COVID-19):
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
While the symptoms listed above do not necessarily mean a person has the coronavirus, employees who have symptoms should be advised to isolate themselves from other people and phone their GP or local emergency department (ED) without delay. Employees should also contact HR.
Work Related Foreign Travel
Members are requested to be sensible regarding work related foreign travel. The HSE advise that there is a high risk of getting coronavirus if you travel to a place where there is spread of the virus (see list above). The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised people to avoid all non-essential travel to China and Northern Italy. Travel advise is available on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs at www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/coronavirus.
Useful websites to keep up to date on developments are as follows:
- Health Service Executive at: www.hse.ie
- Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) at: www.hpsc.ie
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provide travel advice at: www.dfa.ie
- World Health Organisation at: www.who.int
- Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation provide a checklist of preparatory actions in responding to COVID-19 at: dbei.gov.ie/en
- The Health and Safety Authority: www.hsa.ie/eng/news_events_media/news/news_and_articles/coronavirus.html
- COVID-19 – Key contractual issues for organisations to consider: https://byrnewallace.com/news-and-recent-work/publications/covid-19-key-contractual-issues-for-organisations-to-consider.html
- Revenue announce measures to assist SMEs experiencing cashflow difficulties arising from COVID-19: https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/press-office/press-releases/2020/pr-130320-revenue-announce-measures-to-assist-smes-experiencing-cashflow-difficulties-arising-from-covid-19.aspx
Advice from Health & Safety Authority:
- COVID 19 – Advice for Employers: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_
events_media/news/news_and_ articles/covid_19_–_advice_ for_employers.html
- FAQ’s for Employers and Employees in relation to Home-Working on a temporary basis (Covid-19): https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_
events_media/news/news_and_ articles/faq’s_for_employers_ and_employees_in_relation_to_ home-working_on_a_temporary_ basis_covid-19_.html
- COVID-19 Additional HSA FAQs: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_
events_media/news/news_and_ articles/covid-19_additonal_ hsa_faqs.html
- COVID-19 A3 Public Information Poster: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_
events_media/news/news_and_ articles/covid-19_public_ information_screen_poster.jpg