Meat plants among 240 workplaces inspected by HSA this week

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) began inspecting workplaces in relation to Covid-19 this week, with meat plants among the 240 inspections carried out since Monday, May 18.

This was confirmed by Heather Humphreys, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation – the minister who is responsible for the HSA – during a session of the Dáil this evening, Thursday, May 21.

However, Minister Humphreys did not confirm how many of those 240 workplaces are meat plants, despite being pushed by Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley.

Minister Humphreys also said that Covid-19 cases among meat plant staff have accounted for 828 out of 879 cases in all workplaces so far. There are a total of 35 clusters of Covid-19 in all workplaces, 16 of which are in meat plants.

However, Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said that she had been told that there have been 860 cases among meat plant staff so far.

Minister Humphreys was answering questions simultaneously with Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, due to social distancing rules in the Dáil.

Minister for Health Simon Harris was scheduled to take part in this evening’s session with Ministers Creed and Humphreys. However, Minister Harris took part in a different session earlier today instead.

Minister Creed noted that the Health Service Executive (HSE) outbreak teams in affected meat plants, as well as the national HSE outbreak team covering all meat plants, are empowered to prescribe any measure necessary to protect worker health – including plant closures.

Both Minister Creed and Minister Humphreys confirmed that some 55% to 60% of meat plant workers have recovered from Covid-19 and returned to work, in line with a figure recently cited by Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

In his speech to the Dáil at the outset of this evening’s debate, Minister Creed said that his department would also – apart from its official role in meat plants in terms of food safety and animal health – be supporting the HSE and HSA in monitoring how the plants are putting HSE guidance in place.

“My department has assisted in the dissemination of the HSE guidance to the department-approved meat plants. In addition, my department has sought an update from plant management on the measures which have been put in place in each plant to implement these guidelines,” Minister Creed noted.