COVID-19 Return to Work Safely Protocol (Ireland)

Ireland (the Republic of Ireland) has a staged programme of release of COVID-19 restrictions. On 9 May, the Irish state published a Return to Work Safely Protocol.

This Protocol is here.

The Protocol asserts – (I have separated some of the sentences to make reading easier – this is not the full Protocol, please follow the link to the actual document)

Adherence to this protocol will only be achieved if employers and workers have a shared responsibility to implement the measures contained in this protocol in their place of work. A collaborative approach to the implementation of the protocol is essential to achieve success and maximum buy-in.

Each workplace will appoint at least one lead worker representative charged with ensuring that COVID-19 measures are strictly adhered to in their place of work. The person(s) undertaking the role must receive the necessary training and have a structured framework to follow within the organisation to be effective in preventing the spread of the virus.

Employers will have regular and meaningful engagement with their worker representative, workers and/or their recognised Trade Union or other representatives (including their Health and Safety Committee where this exists) about the measures being put in place to address the occupational exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.

Employers will provide a COVID-19 induction training for all workers.

The number of worker representatives for COVID-19 appointed will, ideally, be proportionate to the number of workers in the workplace and this person should be clearly identifiable in the workplace.

Employers and worker representatives will work together to ensure that all the actions in this protocol are fully adhered to in order to ensure the suppression of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Note that this Protocol is not intended to replace the existing measures that essential businesses, which have continued to operate, have already implemented. However, such businesses should review their existing measures to ensure they are in line with this Protocol.

The Protocol should be used by all workplaces to adapt their workplace procedures and practices to comply fully with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures identified as necessary by the HSE (the Irish state public health authority, not to be confused with the HSA which is the Irish state workplace Health and Safety authority). It sets out in very clear terms for employers and workers the steps that they must take before a workplace reopens, and while it continues to operate.

A high-level consultative stakeholder forum, under the aegis of the Labour Employer Economic Forum, will be established. This forum will include membership from the various bodies with responsibility for health and safety at work and for public health more generally. The forum will allow for ongoing engagement at national level on implementation issues in light of evolving public health advice and other factors.

COVID-19 Roadmap (Ireland)

Per its COVID-19 law, the Irish state reviewed its COVID-19 lockdown (premises restrictions etc) last week and issued a Roadmap of dates of easing of the lockdown rules.

This Roadmap is here. The next stage applies from tomorrow. This next stage has no lifting of premises restrictions or allowance for outdoor work.

I posted some days ago with the EU Joint Roadmap for setting a unified approach to easing lockdown rules in EU member states.

The EU Joint Roadmap is here.

On the island of Ireland, the Northern Ireland jurisdiction of the UK has the capacity to issue separate instructions that differ from those on the neighbouring island of Britain (jurisdiction of the UK), but is unlikely to do this to a substantive extent. Both legal entities north and south of the border on the island of Ireland exchange information about their respective COVID-19 rules regularly.

The UK state will review its COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday, and is circulating privately (unpublished as yet) new Workplace Rules. I wrote a separate Blog post about this.

COVID-19 Information for Businesses (Ireland)

NSAI (the National Standards Authority of Ireland) issued (27th March) a Workplace Protection and Improvement Guide – here.

This recommends Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness to stay home if they are well enough to do so or contact the health service if they are acutely unwell. They should not come to work and should restrict their movements for 14 days from symptom onset, the last five days of which should be fever free.

Employers can also put up appropriate signage on their premises and generally communicate the HSE (Health Service Executive) recommendations to prevent infection spread. The HSE have created posters which employers can use which are available here.

The Department of Health has (26th March) issued guidance for supply chain workers – here.

This specifies that Drivers should follow social isolation guidelines. This applies both when they are abroad and also in Ireland. This means they should limit their contact with others to the greatest extent possible both during work time and when not working. If contact with others is unavoidable, leave a distance of at least 2 metres.

Instructions are set out for shop workers and other workers.

The HSE has general guidance (1st April) – here.

This specifies people movement restrictions.

The government’s essential services detail (published 28th March) in the general stay at home instruction until the 12th April is here.

The government’s public health measures in place until 12th April (published 1st April) is here.

The government introduced emergency legislation to restrict movement two-and-a-half weeks ago.

But according to Irish broadcaster RTÉ, gardaí had no powers to enforce it because the necessary regulations had not been signed.

Mr Harris signed the regulations on Tuesday night (last night).

Climate Action (Ireland)

On 17 June 2019, the Irish Government published the Climate Action Plan 2019 (CAP), which commits to bring forward a new Climate Action (Amendment) Bill for publication in Q1 2020.

The Climate Action Plan 2019 is here.

The new Bill will amend the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 and provide for a strengthened statutory framework for continual long-term planning. In due course this legislation will be added to subscribers’ Ireland EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists.

On 19 December 2019, the Irish Government approved the publication of the General Scheme for the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill 2019 (essentially the Heads of Terms of the new Bill).

The General Scheme for the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill 2019 is here.

The Bill aims to enshrine in law the approach outlined in the Climate Action Plan, including:

* Establishing a 2050 emissions reduction target in law (the Government has already backed the adoption of a net-zero target at EU level and says that it will continue to support this level of ambition going forward).

* Making the adoption of 5-year carbon budgets a legal requirement, starting in 2021, the Minister would bring these to the Oireachtas (Legislature) for scrutiny, if rejected they would be revised.

* Strengthening the role of the Climate Action Council in recommending the appropriate climate budget and policies, as well as requiring decarbonisation targets across all sectors, including transport, agriculture, housing and energy. The Council will replace the existing Climate Change Advisory Council that has been widely viewed as under-resourced and too heavily stocked with economists. The proposed Bill would see the Director of Met Éireann join the Council and a limit of two terms for the chairperson.

* Requiring the Government to set a decarbonisation target range for each sector. The Minister with primary responsibility for each sector will be accountable for delivering the relevant actions to meet the sectoral target and for reporting annually on the delivery of their actions and the achievement of sectoral emission targets.

* Giving the Oireachtas a central role in the setting of the carbon budget and overseeing progress to delivery (see above).

* Banning the sale of fossil fuel cars by 2030, the Bill also seeks to stop the granting of NCTs for such vehicles from 2045.

* Establishing that the Climate Action Plan shall be updated annually, with actions in every sector.

Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy (Ireland)

Ireland’s Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is seeking views on the development of a new Waste Action Plan for Ireland as part of the move to a more Circular Economy where resources are kept in use for as long as possible and then recycled or reused at the end of their service life. 

This consultation will enable Ireland  develop a new waste policy / circular economy plan to meet the emerging challenges and build on the targets set out in the Climate Action Plan (separate Blog post on the Climate Action Plan, issued shortly). The completed policy will also match the level of ambition in the Waste and Climate areas being shown across the EU.

The Public Consultation will close at 5pm on Friday 21st February 2020

The consultation document is here

Please see the related consultation documents here

Circular Economy Waste Package (Ireland)

The Circular Economy Waste Package is a collection of directives from the EU which have to be translated into EU member state law:

* Directive (EU) 2018/851 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste

* Directive (EU) 2018/850 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste

* Directive (EU) 2018/852 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste

* Directive (EU) 2018/849 of 30 May 2018 amending Directives 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators, and 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment

These directives, which will amend the existing legislation of EU member states, increase current waste-management targets while introducing some new ones. They strengthen requirements around waste prevention, extend producer responsibility, and streamline definitions, while reporting on obligations and calculation methods for targets.

I blog posted about these amendments a while back. The consolidated EU Directives are supplied in Cardinal EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists (paid subscribers will have access to, as tailored).

EU Member States, including Ireland, are required to transpose these four directives into national law by 5 July 2020.

On 30th December 2019, the Irish Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment announced it is seeking views on this transposition process through a public consultation.

Along with the four directives mentioned above, the Single Use Plastic Directive (EU 2019/904) (SUP Directive) is also going to be transposed into national law, by 5 July 2021. This directive contains enhanced provisions to those contained in the Circular Economy Waste Package. I blog posted about this Directive as well, and it will be added to paid subscribers Registers & Checklists systems.

Given the links between the directives, Ireland is also seeking views on the transposition of the SUP Directive.

The deadline for consultation is 5pm, Friday 21, February, 2020.

The consultation document is – here.

New Ireland/Northern Ireland Trade Arrangements (UK Brexit)

* Exit day is 31st January 2020

* Withdrawal Treaty transition period end is 31st December 2020

The revised UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty is expected to be ratified shortly by the UK enacting the UK’s EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (currently in draft, known as the WAB). This will bring into force both the Exit day and the transition period.

The Withdrawal Treaty includes an Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of new trade arrangements that will apply to trade between the UK and the EU via the island of Ireland after the transition period.

* Ireland is an EU member state.

* Northern Ireland (NI) is part of the UK.

* The UK will be a third country vis a vis the EU after Exit day.

* The transition period stays (delays) the effect of Exit to give time for a trade deal to be put in place between the UK and the EU.

The Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol makes a number of arrangements applicable to trade – that will apply after the transition period –

(1) Northern Ireland (NI) will operate inside the EU’s single market for industrial goods and agrifood, and comply with the EU’s Union Customs Code (whilst at the same time Norther Ireland will remain a legal part of the UK’s customs territory – the Protocol does not affect the UK customs territory).

(2) Goods entering NI from GB will be coming from a third country (the UK). Because those goods will be able to cross the land border into the EU’s single market, then customs procedures, tariffs, regulatory and agrifood checks will be required at the NI points of entry from GB: Warrenpoint, Belfast and Larne ports, and at airports – or more likely due to lack of infrastructure – at the GB ports of exit: Liverpool, etc, acting for the EU.

(3) Goods going in the opposite direction, Northern Ireland to GB, will require summary exit declarations under the EU’s Union Customs Code. The detail of this is not yet published.

(4) Beyond that, checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to GB will be up to the UK. It will have obligations under the WTO and may want to “protect” its own internal market from Irish-origin and therefore EU goods. In addition, new trade deals the UK agrees outside of the EU sphere may stipulate or necessitate the checking of some goods.

(5) Much depends on the detail of the new set-up –

Under the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty , a specialised sub-committee, which forms part of the overall UK-EU Joint Committee to be created under the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty to manage the new relationship between Britain and Europe, will agree certain aspects.

Note : the EU has acknowledged that Ireland will need to have a reserved seat – along with Spain and Cyprus, who have Protocols of their own on Gibraltar and the issue of the British military base on Cyprus in the UK-EU Withdrawal Treaty – at the Joint Committee table.

The sub-committee will agree a list of goods and categories of goods which are only destined for, or will be consumed in, Northern Ireland – in other words, where there is no obvious risk they will cross the border and enter the single market.

(6) Goods from GB to NI (dealt with by this sub-committee) may be exempted from tariffs altogether, or where tariffs are paid and where the EU tariff is higher than the UK one, importers will be able to apply for a rebate.

(7) Live animals will be checked coming in to NI from GB (as they are now), and agrifood products GB to NI will also need to comply with EU food safety requirements.

(8) The new UK-EU trade deal itself will also affect the work of the Joint Committee specialised sub-committee – if the UK-EU trade deal results in zero tariffs and quotas, then that will largely remove the need for tariff exemptions and rebates on goods moving from GB to Northern Ireland (traders would still have to do the paperwork to show that the consignments they are moving are actually tariff-free).

I will post further on this matter, when more information is available.

Long-term Strategy on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction (Ireland)

Article 15 of the European Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action requires each Member State to prepare and submit to the Commission a long-term strategy for greenhouse gas emissions reduction with a perspective of at least 30 years.

Ireland has already established a detailed decarbonisation pathway to 2030 in its Climate Action Plan 2019. This will be reflected in Ireland’s final national energy and climate plan (NECP).

As part of the NECP consultation process, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment sought views on decarbonising beyond 2030.

The Climate Action Plan 2019 puts in place a decarbonisation pathway to 2030 which would be consistent with the adoption of a net zero target in Ireland by 2050. Action 1 under the Plan has also committed to evaluating in detail the changes required to adopt a more ambitious commitment of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as part of finalising Ireland’s long-term climate strategy by the end of 2019 as per the advice of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the recommendation of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is now seeking further views in relation to decarbonisation pathways beyond 2030, including transition options across all key sectors of the economy (energy, buildings, transport, enterprise, waste, agriculture and land-use), on the role of innovative technologies and on socio-economic factors.

Link to Long-term Strategy Consultation Document – here.

Page 5 sets out the ways in which a response may be made. The deadline is 16th December 2019.

Food Safety (Ireland Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October

(a separate post will notify if/when this date changes, and it is unlikely a future exit day will be later than 31st January 2020)

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has a Brexit section online (last reviewed 6th August 2019) that presents relevant information for persons who trade with the UK (this includes Northern Ireland) as part of a food business.

There is a huge amount of information on this online site.

A Q&A document consolidates much of it – here (dated 2 April 2019)

A key component is the Border Inspection Posts (BIPs). As the reader is aware, there is an International Land Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK). This is known as the Irish Border.

The Irish Government is working with the EU to establish additional BIPs to serve trade across the Irish Border. The location of these additional BIPs is not yet announced, other than statements made by the Irish Government that they will be located away from the actual Irish Border physical position.

The BIPs at Dublin and Shannon (page 9 of the Q&A) are already set up.

Getting Ireland Brexit Ready (Ireland Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October

(a different date may be agreed between the UK and the EU, but this Exit date is unlikely to be later than 31st January 2020)

Yesterday, 4th September, the Government of Ireland has issued an important Practical Steps document – here.

Please examine this document carefully.