Northern Ireland

Coronavirus complaints made against 336 NI companies

HSENI sign
Image caption Sanctions imposed by the Health and Safety Executive include letters requiring action and enforcement notices.

Complaints were made against 336 companies over breaches of coronavirus guidelines in a two-and-a-half month period of the pandemic.

From 5 May to 17 July 2020, the NI Health and Safety Executive (HSENI) made 374 inspections of businesses, 372 of which were unannounced.

The body had been criticised for not inspecting businesses to ensure safety measures were being followed.

HSENI said no companies were required to stop work due to breaches.

In the majority of cases, there was a high level of compliance with the Public Health Agency's guidance on safely measures to combat Covid-19, said HSENI.

"At most sites compliance was achieved by advice or verbal instruction," said a spokesman.

"Where sanctions have been required these have ranged from letters requiring actions with agreed timescales to enforcement notices."

While multiple complaints could be made against one company, each complaint was investigated separately, added the spokesman.

"Inspectors will also take note of the number of complaints logged against a company and the common areas of concern raised."

Delay in inspections

Until 4 May, any Covid-related complaints to HSENI were dealt with "remotely" - with measures thought to include providing advice over the phone and seeking evidence of compliance with social distancing guidelines from pictures emailed by the firms involved.

It was reported that complaints against some 480 firms were received by HSENI between 16 March and 4 May.

Since 4 May, HSENI has been carrying unannounced site visits.

Concerns were raised about the issue of workplace inspections after the death of a worker from poultry giant Moy Park who had contracted Covid-19.

Image caption A Moy Park worker died after contracting the virus

Moy Park said that significant safety measures had been in place for some time and were stringently followed.

There had also been evidence of disease outbreaks among workers in a number of other meat plants.

All the companies involved said they had introduced stringent protection measures and were complying with official guidance.

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