In this section:
- Face masks/coverings, surgical masks or respirators
- Advice for employers managing legionella risks during the COVID 19 pandemic
- Advice on the use of hand sanitisers
- What are the requirements for the regulation of hand sanitising gels?
- Temperature screening requirements for workplaces under the Protocol
- Close contacts in the workplace
- Contact logs and contact tracing log requirements
- Procedures for the workplace if a worker is confirmed as COVID-19 positive
- Advice on cleaning and waste disposal in the workplace
9. Face masks/coverings, surgical masks or respirators
Updated 15th February
The most important actions employers and workers can take to protect themselves from COVID-19 is to undertake regular hand-washing, good respiratory hygiene, and to follow physical distancing guidelines. Face coverings/masks should be worn in line with Public Health advice. The HSE provides a step-by-step guideline on how to properly wash your hands and avoid infection on its website. Information on physical/social distancing is also available.
The National Work Safely Protocol provides advice to employers for situations where 2-metre worker separation cannot be ensured by organisational means and recommends alternative protective measures should be put in place, for example:
Maintain at least a distance of 1 metre or as much distance as is reasonably practicable,
Minimise any direct worker contact and provide hand washing facilities, and other hand hygiene aids, such as hand sanitisers, wipes etc. that are readily accessible so workers can perform hand hygiene as soon as the work task is complete,
Install physical barriers, such as clear plastic screens/sneeze guards between workers,
Provide PPE as appropriate
Make face coverings available to workers in line with Public Health advice.
Face coverings are now mandatory in retail outlets, banks, credit unions and post offices, in taxis, in bus and rail stations, on public transport and for workers in customer facing roles in cafés, bars and restaurants. You can find the latest information on face coverings here.
Where face coverings/masks are made available to workers in line with the advice above, these can be either cloth face masks or surgical type face masks. They should be clean and not shared or handled by others. Wearing of face coverings is not a substitute for other infection prevention and control measures, and may be used in addition to these measures, especially where maintaining physical/social distancing is difficult. It is recommended that face coverings are worn in crowded areas, including crowded workplaces. In addition to this recommendation, consideration may be given to wearing face coverings in places or situations where it may also be difficult to achieve or maintain 2m physical/social distancing. This might include:
- when entering and exiting buildings
- public access areas in buildings, including receptions/foyers
- when moving throughout buildings to toilets, photocopiers, on stairwells etc.
- canteens and kitchen areas (prior to and after eating) or when using facilities such as boilers, toasters.
The HSE has provided advice on the use of face coverings for members of the public. The advice is available here and here. You can also download the poster on how to use face coverings here.
Note on face visors / face shields:
HSE advice is that visors are not the best option for protecting yourself or others from COVID-19, and should only be worn in certain circumstances – see hse.ie for further information
See hpsc.ie for a summary document on the Efficacy of visors compared with masks in the prevention of transmission of COVID-19 in non-healthcare settings
Respirators e.g. CE marked FFP2s would normally be required for workers who are considered at higher risk from occupational exposure to COVID-19 such as healthcare workers, paramedics or other occupations deemed at higher risk. The requirement to use respirators should be based on an appropriate occupational risk assessment and should be task specific.
The selection and use of respirators is very important. Fit testing is required to ensure the correct respirator has been chosen for the worker and a fit check should be carried out each time a respirator is worn. Preventing self-contamination when removing respirators is critical. To be effective, respirators require a tight seal around the face. Male workers using a respirator should be clean-shaven. A respiratory protection programme should be in place, which incorporates education and practical training.
Advice and guidance for healthcare workers on personal protective equipment including respiratory protection is available on the HPSC website:
HPSC Guidance for Healthcare and Non-Healthcare settings including new and updated guidance
HPSC A-Z COVID-19 information and guidance
How to safely put on, fit check and take off a FFP2 mask - video
Safe use of FFP2 respirator mask – poster
HPSC video resources
HSA guide to respiratory protective equipment
HSE UK poster on using disposable respirators
10. Advice for employers managing legionella risks during the COVID 19 pandemic?
The Authority has produced guidance to support employers with control of Legionella bacteria during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic. It highlights the requirement to continue managing Legionella control to avoid the potential for Legionnaires’ disease. This disease can be fatal and hospitalisation is generally required to treat symptoms. With the health service currently dealing with a public health emergency, it is vital that employers take appropriate action to maintain and operate their water systems especially wet cooling systems, so far as reasonably practicable, during this public health emergency.
A copy of the guidance can be found here.
11. Advice on the use of Hand Sanitisers
Regular and thorough handwashing with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds can help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses and bacteria. It should be carried out in line with Public Health advice. Alcohol or non-alcohol based hand sanitisers can also be used if your hands have no visible dirt on them. They must be effective against COVID-19. Where an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is used, it must have an alcohol content of 60% or above. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are highly flammable and must not be stored or used near heat or a naked flame. See Q18 for further information.
12. What are the requirements for the regulation of hand sanitising gels?
Hand sanitising gels are biocides and fall under the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) –Regulation (EU) 528/2012. The Pesticide Registration and Control Division (PRCD) of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) is the competent authority for biocides in Ireland. Human hygiene biocidal products (PT 1) such as hand sanitisers and other disinfectants are considered biocidal products and MUST by law be registered with the DAFM and listed on its biocide product register prior to being made available on the market and used in Ireland. See link to DAFM Biocidal Product Registers.
Only biocidal products listed on the DAFM biocide product register are legal to market and use in Ireland. You should ensure that all sanitisers and disinfectants carry a PCS 9xxxx, PCS 1xxxxx, IE/BPA 7xxxx or an EU-000xxx-xx registration number on the label. Each product registered by DAFM will carry a unique registration number specific to that particular product. If the product label does not contain any of these number formats, you should not purchase or use the product. You can check the registers of products online at http://www.pcs.agriculture.gov.ie/registers/biocidalproductregisters/
DAFM are continuing to review new biocidal product applications (namely hand sanitisers and disinfectants) for inclusion on the product register. Applicants should note they are required to register such products with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) Biocides unit in their Product Registration and Control Division before making them available for sale and use in Ireland. Guidance for notifications and application forms can be found on their website https://www.pcs.agriculture.gov.ie/
Further information from DAFM on Sanitisers and Disinfectants
13. Temperature screening requirements for workplaces under the Protocol
Updated 27th November
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever/high temperature, cough, shortness of breath or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. A fever is defined as a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above.
The Work Safely Protocol makes provision for implementing temperature testing in line with Public Health advice. Currently, there is no Public Health requirement to undertake temperature testing/screening in the workplace. However, some employers may have included provisions for temperature screening as part of their return to work infection prevention and control measures.
In the case where Public Health advice has issued and/or local Public Health officials have advised that temperature screening/testing is to be undertaken in a specific workplace, the employers need to implement that advice and workers need to comply with these requirements. If a staff member is recorded as having a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above, employers should enact their Response Plan as outlined in the Work Safely Protocol. Note the Health and Safety Authority has no role in implementing temperature testing in the workplace. Public Health information and advice will apply, where issued - see hse.ie/coronavirus
14. Close contacts in the workplace
Updated 20h November
The Work Safely Protocol advises that where possible, meetings should be held remotely and technological alternatives should be made available (e.g., telephone or video conferencing). In instances where face to face meetings are absolutely necessary, the length of the meeting and the numbers attending should be kept to a minimum with attendees observing physical distancing guidelines at all times.
There is no time restriction on how long workers can be in the same room observing physical distancing advice, however HPSC Guidelines in the identification of contacts for contact tracing purposes states that "For those contacts who have shared a closed space with a case for longer than two hours, a risk assessment should be undertaken taking into consideration the size of the room, ventilation and the distance from the case. This may include office and school settings and any sort of large conveyance."
For contact tracing purposes, ‘close contact’ can mean spending 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within 2 metres of someone who has COVID-19, indoors or outdoors. Spending more than 2 hours in an indoor space with someone who has COVID-19 will sometimes count as close or casual contact. It will depend on the size of the room and other factors.
If you are a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 and you have no symptoms or your COVID-19 test comes back negative (COVID-19 not detected), the Public Health advice is to restrict your movements for 14 days. This includes not going to work. The HSE provides detailed information on ‘close contact’ and ‘casual contact’ – see hse.ie/coronavirus
Public Health officials will, in the course of the contact tracing process, assess the physical shape of the room, presence of windows, surfaces, etc. to determine the extent to which everyone in the room are actual close contacts.
Employers are therefore encouraged to risk assess all work practices in their organisations to minimise the potential of employees becoming close contacts of each other, consider the implications of all designated as close contacts to self-isolate for two weeks and to build in contingencies into their workforce planning accordingly.
15. Contact logs and contact tracing requirements
The Work Safely Protocol advises employers to keep a log of contacts to facilitate contact tracing by Public Health officials. Employers must maintain up-to-date information on workers (full-time, part-time, contract, and agency), and should inform workers and others of the purpose of the log.
A close contact can mean
- spending more than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within 2 metres of someone who has COVID-19, indoors or outdoors
- living in the same house or shared accommodation as someone who has COVID-19
- sitting within 2 seats of someone who has COVID-19 on public transport or an airplane.
Spending more than 2 hours in an indoor space with someone who has COVID-19 will sometimes count as close or casual contact.
Employers should log any incidences that meet these criteria.
Should a worker become COVID-19 positive, or if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace, Public Health officials may request the log as part of the contact tracing process. The log should include details such as date / name, address and telephone number of the individual worker / duration of contact (if possible) to help contact tracing teams determine who might qualify as a close contact. Where contact details are not readily available to managers (e.g. external contractors), these should also be recorded in case contact needs to be made.
The Data Protection Commissioner has provided advice on processing data for contact tracing. Logs should be held for 28 days, after which time they can be deleted or disposed of safely.
16. Procedures for the workplace if a worker is confirmed as COVID-19 positive
Updated 26th January
COVID-19 is an infectious disease. Anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and those with symptoms of COVID-19 are required to self-isolate for 10-14 days, depending on HSE advice. A close contact of a confirmed case needs to restrict their movements (stay at home) for 14 days, even if they feel well, or have received a test and the result is negative (COVID-19 not detected). A close contact that develops symptoms of COVID-19 needs to self-isolate (stay in their room) and phone their GP for further advice. For the most up to date guidance and advice on close contacts, self-isolating and restricted movements see hse.ie/coronavirus.
As part of their return to work (or when re-opening the workplace following a temporary closure), employers are encouraged to risk assess all work practices in their organisations and to build in contingencies into their workforce planning accordingly.
Work Safely Protocol includes a number of infection prevention and control measures that employers should consider ahead of reopening the workplace to limit risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Workers displaying COVID -19 signs and symptoms or feeling unwell should be advised that they are to stay at home. If a worker displays signs or symptoms of the virus in the workplace, the Work Safely Protocol includes a number of measures that an employer must take.
Testing for COVID-19 for those displaying signs and symptoms can be arranged through a GP (free of charge) who will assess the patient and decide whether a test needs to be carried out. Further information on getting tested for COVID-19 is available on hse.ie/coronavirus
Public Health contact tracing teams will determine who else in the workplace may need to be tested as part of the contact tracing process. Employer’s contact logs may be used to facilitate this.
17. Advice on cleaning and waste disposal in the workplace
Updated 19th January
COVID-19 can last for several hours on surfaces in the absence of effective cleaning. It is therefore essential that workplaces maintain thorough and regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. If disinfection is required, it must be performed in addition to cleaning, not as a substitute for cleaning.
- ensure contact/touch surfaces such as table tops, work equipment, door handles and handrails are visibly clean at all times and are cleaned at least twice daily, and disinfected if required;
- implement modified cleaning intervals for rooms and work areas. This applies especially for washroom facilities and communal spaces. Cleaning should be performed at least twice per day and whenever facilities are visibly dirty;
- provide workers with essential cleaning materials to keep their own workspace clean (for example wipes/disinfection products, paper towels and waste bins/bags);
- increase number of waste collection points and ensure these are emptied regularly throughout and at the end of each day;
- modify use of hot desks to ensure that these are made available to identified staff and have appropriate cleaning materials in place for workers to clean the area before using.
In the case of a worker becoming COVID-19 positive, extras steps should be taken in the workplace to protect from further infection from the virus. These include additional cleaning measures of work areas that the worker may have been in contact with and additional precautions for waste disposal.
Note: In relation to routine disposal of waste in the workplace, waste such as used tissues, wipes and cleaning material should be disposed of in the regular domestic waste stream. Hands should be cleaned immediately after disposal of these items.
In relation to disposal of waste from a worker who becomes symptomatic while at work, this waste should be disposed of in a disposable refuse bag. When the waste bag is three quarters full, it should be tied securely, placed into a second refuse bag and tied again. The bag should then be left in a safe location for three days (72 hours) before putting out for collection. For further advice, please contact your relevant Local Authority.
Further details and advice on cleaning and waste disposal for different work sectors are available from hpsc.ie. Additional information is now also available in the HPSC Cleaning Guidance for Use in Non-Healthcare Settings which covers routine cleaning advice in the absence of a known symptomatic or confirmed case of COVID 19 and for situations where COVID-19 is suspected/confirmed.
HPSC Cleaning Guidance for Use in Non-Healthcare Settings
HPSC Guidance for Healthcare Settings
NSAI COVID-19 Business Guides
HSA Employer Checklist No. 5 on Cleaning and Disinfection