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Need to treat COVID-19 infection as a workplace injury is not considered

In the second wave of the pandemic, COVID infection among nurses is rising. In this scenario, too, the need for nurses to treat COVID-19 infection as a workplace injury is not considered. As of October 12, tens of thousands of health workers had already been infected with COVID-19. One-fifth of all confirmed cases in Ireland to date are health workers. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has repeatedly demanded that work-related infections and deaths be reported to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

The latest report from the Center for Health Protection and Surveillance Centre (HPSC) shows that nurses and health care assistants are at higher risk of infection. Half of the health care staff affected by COVID-19 worked in hospitals or nursing homes.

Not all infections are from the workplace. However, the report reveals that 20% of infections are from the health care setting. The report states that 24% of COVID infections are transmitted through close contact, 20% through community transmission and in 35% of cases the cause of the virus is unknown.

In a letter to the HSA, INMO and the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) reiterated that COVID-19 should be revised to deal with current injuries to the workplace.

If someone becomes ill at work, it should be reported to the HSA. The INMO letter urges the HSA to examine how the injury / illness occurred and how to prevent it in the future. The Special Oireachtas committee on COVID-19 also recommended that viral infections be reported to the HSA as workplace injuries.

Eight health workers have died from COVID-19, but none of them have been reported to the HSA. At the same time, every farm death and death in the construction sector is reported to the agency, an INMO spokesman said. Meanwhile, Dáil figures show that the HSA has conducted more than 100 inspections at food and meat processing plants since May.

HSA is a state agency set up to protect people in the workplace. The agency is not taking any action even while COVID-19 continues to report from the workplace. A spokesman for the organisation said it hoped the government would take the matter seriously, as recommended by the COVID Oireachtas committee.

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