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Stronger workplace inspection regime required if there is poor compliance — McConkey

There may be a need for an expanded role for environmental health officers to inspect businesses’ compliance with Covid-19 measures, according to Prof Samuel McConkey, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine, RCSI.

Speaking on 19 June at the online Future Health Summit ‘Leadership Series’ on the topic of the economy during Covid-19, Prof McConkey said any expanded role in the area would depend upon the level of adherence among business owners.

Prof McConkey was responding to a question from the Medical Independent (MI) on whether he believed there could be a role for HIQA, the Department of Health or any other agency, in terms of inspecting Covid-19 compliance in non-medical settings such as offices, bars and restaurants  

“There are environmental health officers that do exactly this [inspect non-medical sites], so there is a whole network of environmental health officers. The restaurant business will be very much aware of the risk, because they are inspected,” said Prof McConkey

“Should their role be expanded? Perhaps. I think it depends on the level of public adherence. If there is a high level of adherence and compliance, then a  regulatory inspection becomes burdensome and less necessary, but [if] you have a lot of cowboys doing their own thing, then inspection becomes more important.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation told MI that the Health and Safety Authority is the “lead agency responsible” for overseeing compliance with the national return to work safely protocol. The spokesperson described this document as “a useful guide for businesses in making their assessments and adapting their workplace procedures and practices to comply fully with the Covid-19-related public health protection measures”.

Regarding the use of face masks in the workplace, Prof McConkey said that “my view of masks is that once we are coming within two metres of people, we should be wearing masks. That is not so much to do with if it’s in the office, the shop or the hospital, it’s more when you are close to people.”

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