The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has said approximately 700 inspections were completed between Monday of last week, when the economy began to slowly reopen, and close of business yesterday.

The HSA said the inspections were completed across a range of industry sectors, roughly half of which were in the construction sector.

The HSA said that broadly speaking and based on initial analysis of the inspections, compliance with the Return to Work Safety Protocol is high and employers are generally taking a responsible and proactive approach.

Of the inspections carried out, approximately three quarters of employers had a Response Plan in place, as required by the protocol.  

Where issues have been identified, HSA inspectors have been engaging with the employer and providing verbal and written advice and direction.

A spokesperson for the HSA said they currently have 67 inspectors covering the whole country but said they are hoping to recruit more inspectors.

He said the Authority is "currently finalising additional inspection resources" which could see hundreds more resourced from existing inspector grades across government departments.

The spokesperson also confirmed that the vast majority of inspections are carried out unannounced.

However, in some cases they do need to inform people they are coming in order to assess particular operations being carried out or to meet certain health and safety personnel at a particular site, where a company may have multiple locations across the country.

Construction industry sources confirmed a significant number of building sites were among those workplaces inspected last week.

They said there had been positive engagement between the inspectors and the employers and in some cases issues were noted by the inspectors.

But the sources said they were not aware of any sites being shut down due to concerns over a failure by the employer to put in place adequate Covid-19 protections for staff.

Last week the Trade Union Federation, comprising the unions SIPTU, BATU and Connect,~signed an agreement with the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) to ensure the safety of workers across the industry.

The agreement includes additional and industry specific measures to deal with the threat of Covid-19, such as a monitoring system, improved access to sites for union representatives, alternative work patterns and temperature testing of workers.

- additional reporting Will Goodbody