Safe working procedures are the first line of defence against infections at work. However, where the risk assessment shows that there is a risk to the health and safety of employees due to working with/exposure to a biological agent for which an effective vaccine is available (the vaccine must be one that is registered in the European Union), employers should offer vaccination, free of charge to their employees.
Benefits and Drawbacks
In offering vaccination, the employer should ensure that employees are made aware of the benefits and drawbacks of both vaccination and non-vaccination. The risk assessment should consider non-responders to vaccination or employees who do not wish to avail of vaccination, as additional control measures may be required. There may be instances, based on the risk assessment, that if someone is not vaccinated that they would not be regarded as safe to perform certain work tasks.
Vaccination should only be carried out under the direction of a medical practitioner (in line with the Immunisation Guidelines for Ireland). The practitioner will know when vaccination is not advisable, for example, there are some vaccines that should not be given to pregnant women. Vaccination should be carried out prior to exposure to the biological agent.
Vaccination should only be seen as a useful supplement to the safe use of engineering controls, safe working procedures, instruction, information and training and the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and should not replace them.
A vaccination certificate (paper or electronic) may be drawn up which should be made available to the employee concerned and on request to the Health and Safety Authority. Relevant information to include in the certificate would be the date of vaccination, the expected duration of cover of the vaccine (this may require a blood test as in the case of Hepatitis B) and where relevant, evidence of declination of vaccination. No personal health information should be contained in the certificate.
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