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Note

This is a Guidance Document only. Services should develop a COVID-19 Policy and Procedure Document relevant to their service as each service is different and will require different protocols. This Guidance Document is based on information currently available and may change as further guidance is issued by the authorities. It is also influenced by research into back to work arrangements in other countries.

We wish to acknowledge the extra burden this will place on services and the draw it will have on already limited resources. Services are advised to seek assistance from their local enterprise board through the Business Continuity Voucher to assist them return to work and put procedures in place.

Each service should risk assess and controls should be put in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Canavan Byrne is currently developing a Return to Work Rescue Package based on this information and any further guidelines issues by the Authorities. We will also arrange training (webinars) on the topic.

THIS DOCUMENT WILL BE UPDATED IN LINE WITH ANY NEW GUIDELINES ISSUED.

Introduction

The government has published a ‘Return to Work Safely Protocol, COVID-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers[1]’ which describes the measures required to be put in place by employers and adhered to by workers to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace as it re-opens on a phased basis under the government’s roadmap. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has been given the authority to oversee compliance with the protocol. The protocol incorporates current advice about measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) but as this advice evolves these measures may change so it very important for early years providers to keep up date with any new advice from the HSA, HSE or Tusla.

[1] https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/22829a-return-to-work-safely-protocol/

Key facts

COVID – 19 is a new illness that can affect the lungs and airways and is caused by a new virus called the Coronavirus.

Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets. To infect you, it has to get from an infected person's nose or mouth into your eyes, nose or mouth. This can be direct or indirect (on hands, objects, surfaces).

The most common symptoms are:

  • Cough - this can be any kind of cough, usually dry but not always
  • Fever - high temperature over 38 degrees Celsius
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Breathing Difficulties

There are a range of key actions that the Irish Government[2] ,the Health Service Executive[3] and the Return to Work Safely Protocol have recommended to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission including the workplace.

  • wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty
  • practice good respiratory hygiene, that is, when coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • maintain social or physical distancing, that is, leave at least 2 metres (6 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.
  • As part of social distancing have a ‘no handshaking policy’
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself

Guidance for Early Years’ Providers

This guidance

  • Is informed by the Government’s Return to Work Safely Protocol, COVID-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers.
  • Is underpinned by the government’s key recommendations to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus: good hand hygiene, good respiratory hygiene, social distancing and regular cleaning.
  • Is in addition and complimentary to Regulation 23 Safeguarding, Health, Safety and Welfare of the Child of the Child Care Act 1991(Early Years Services Regulations) 2016
  • Is in addition to the Services’ Infection Control Policy
  • Sets out a range of actions to be considered, implemented and adapted as necessary taking account of the individual needs of staff and children in childcare settings. It recognises that not all the actions may be appropriate for every service.

Attendance at the Early Years’ Service

COVID-19 is a notifiable disease and the service must follow procedures as set out in the service’s Infection Control policy for notifying Tusla, HSE Preschool Environmental Health Officer and the Public Health Department. If there is a confirmed case in the service. If two or more children or staff test positive for COVID-19 in the same time period contact the Department of Public Health, HSE or Tusla for advice.

Staff

  • Before returning to work all staff must complete a pre-return to work form at least three days in advance of returning to work. This form should seek confirmation that the worker to the best of their knowledge has no symptoms of COVID-19, that they are not self-isolating, that they are not a close contact of a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days or awaiting results of a COVID-19 coronavirus test.
  • Before returning to work all staff must complete induction training on CODIV-19 including symptoms of COVID-19, what to do if staff member or child develops any of the symptoms, details of how the service’s policies, procedures and operational activities have changed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and who are the key contacts in relation to COVID-19 in the service.
  • If a staff member is identified as being in the at risk or vulnerable category, the provider needs to carry out a risk assessment with the staff member and identify what controls can be put in place to support their safe return to work. It is recommended in the Return to Work Safely Protocol that vulnerable or at-risk staff should be preferentially supported to maintain a physical distance of 2 meters.
  • All staff need to comply with any temperature testing implemented by the employer in line with public health advice.
  • After a return to work, any staff member who is unwell with a fever, have a cold, influenza or infectious respiratory symptoms of any kind or displaying any of the symptoms[4] of coronavirus need to stay at home, contact their GP and seek their guidance on referral for coronavirus testing.
  • Any staff member with symptoms of coronavirus or who tests positive should quarantine at home for 14 days and only return to the service when the symptoms have fully resolved and with a doctor’s certificate stating that the staff member is no longer infectious.
  • Any staff member who is a close contact of a person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19 should stay at home and quarantine for 14 days even though the staff member feels well but it is possible that they are also infected. It can take 2 – 14 days to show symptoms, so it may take up to 14 days to know if they are infected or not[5]. They should only return to the service with a doctor’s certificate to say they do not have coronavirus and are not infectious.

Children

  • Any child who is unwell with a fever, have a cold, influenza or infectious respiratory symptoms of any kind or displaying any of the symptoms[6] of coronavirus need to stay at home, contact their GP and seek their guidance on referral for coronavirus testing.
  • Any child with symptoms of coronavirus or who tests positive should quarantine at home for 14 days and only return to the service when the symptoms have fully resolved and with a doctor’s certificate stating that the staff member is no longer infectious.
  • Any child who is a close contact of a person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19 should stay at home and quarantine for 14 days even though the child feels well but it is possible that they are also infected. It can take 2 – 14 days to show symptoms, so it may take up to 14 days to know if they are infected or not[7]. They should only return to the service with a doctor’s certificate to say they do not have coronavirus and are not infectious.
  • If temperature testing is introduced for children, parents’ consent should be sought first, explaining to the parents the purpose of the temperature testing.

Parents

  • Only parents or carers who are well and have no symptoms of COVID-19 or who have served the required quarantine time of 14 days where advised should be allowed to drop off and collect children.

General

  • Where at all possible, limit access to the service to staff and children.
  • Visitors or contractors should only be permitted to enter the service on essential business e.g. essential maintenance, and they should be asked to make these visits outside of the usual operational hours. Their contact details should be collected i.e. name, address, mobile, email address.
  • Ask people who are in the high risk or vulnerable categories[8] not to attend the service

Dealing with a suspected case of COVID-19 in the service

To safely manage a situation whereby a staff member or a child becomes unwell while in the service and may be presenting as a suspected case of COVID-19 the provider should have a response plan in place including:

  • Appoint a supervisor or manager to deal with suspected cases in advance or if you are a very small service name the person who will take this responsibility.
  • Identify a designated isolation area and the route to that isolation area in advance. This may be challenging for small services and other responses may be required.
  • Ensure that the isolation area has the ability to isolate the person behind a closed door and if that is not possible the isolation area should be well away from other staff and children.
  • In the isolation area provide Personal protective equipment i.e. disposable apron, gloves, face masks; tissues, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, dedicated pedal bin to dispose of any waste material

Staff

If a staff member becomes unwell and presents as a suspected case of COVID-19 while at work in the service

  • The staff member should be isolated and there should be a procedure in place to accompany the staff member to the isolation area via the isolation route, keeping at least 2 meters apart from the staff member.
  • Provide a mask for the staff member, tissues if required and to use the dedicated waste bin, as necessary.
  • The staff member should be advised not to touch surfaces, people or any objects.
  • Assess whether the unwell staff member can immediately be asked to go home and contact their GP.
  • Arrange transport home or to hospital for medical assessment if necessary. Public transport of any kind should not be used.
  • The staff member should only return to the service with a doctor’s certificate to say they do not have coronavirus and are not infectious.
  • Carry out an assessment of the incident which will form any part of follow up actions
  • Arrange for appropriate cleaning and disinfection of the isolation area or any other area.

Child

If a child becomes unwell and presents as a suspected case of COVID-19 while at the service

  • The child should be brought to the isolation area by a staff member via the isolation route, keeping at least 2 meters apart from the staff member.
  • Depending on the age provide a mask for the child and tissues if required and use the dedicated waste bin, as necessary.
  • The staff member caring for the child in isolation should wear personal protective equipment i.e. face mask, disposable apron and gloves.
  • The child should be encouraged not to touch surfaces, people or any objects.
  • Contact the child’s parents immediately and ask them to collect the child and to contact their GP. Public transport of any kind should not be used.
  • The child should only return to the service with a doctor’s certificate to say they do not have coronavirus and are not infectious.
  • Carry out an assessment of the incident which will form any part of follow up actions.
  • Arrange for appropriate cleaning and disinfection of the isolation area or any other area.

Signage

The HSE has are a range of posters, booklets and videos[9] for use in workplaces to raise awareness about how to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 e.g. hand washing, social distancing, symptoms, vulnerable groups. It is recommended to use these resources in early years settings so as to inform and increase awareness on the coronavirus.

Signage may require adaptation to be suitable for an Early Years’ environment

Arrival and departure procedures

  • Consider the arrival and departure procedures for children and where possible try to support social distancing and minimize the opportunity for parents and carers to gather in groups especially at the entrance to the service or in the arrival area.
  • Consider asking parents to drop and collect children at the entrance to the service.
  • Provide markings on the ground to encourage parents to socially distance at arrival and collection times.
  • Ask that only one parent per family drops off and collects their child/ children.
  • Consider staggering arrival and collection times to avoid groups of parents being together e.g. asking different groups of children to arrive at different times over a staggered time period.
  • Parents should be asked not leave equipment such as buggies, car seats, scooters in the premises, but rather in external buggy areas if available or asked to bring them home.
  • Be very proactive in asking parents, children and staff to wash their hands on arrival at the service. Where it is not possible for parents to wash their hands at the arrival area, provide alcohol -based hand rub or gel and have it safely out of the reach of children.

Communication with parents

  • Have clear, consistent and transparent communication with parents. Providers should explain the new procedures in place to reduce the risk of the transmission of the coronavirus in the service and explain why they are doing what they are doing. Ongoing communication will be really important especially if procedures change or are updated and helps to make everyone feel secure and safe with the new procedures.
  • Meet parents at the entrance of the service each day, ensuring social distancing between the adults, in addition to the usual communication about children this time also allows discussion on children’s health and any sign of them being unwell.
  • Given that communication between staff and parents will be reduced to drop off and collection times, consider alternative ways or expansion of existing ways to communicate with parents e.g. email, text, phone, social media

Hand hygiene

  • Ensure that there is liquid soap and running water throughout the premises for access by children and staff.
  • Where services do not have sinks in each of the children’s rooms use hand gel or rub under the supervision of staff and keep the hand gel out of children’s reach.
  • If hands are physically dirty, then they need to be washed with liquid soap and warm water and children and staff will have to go to the nearest sink or bathroom.
  • Staff and children should be encouraged to regularly wash their hands with soap and water including on arrival at the service, before and after snacks or meals and before after using the toilet and should dry their hands thoroughly with paper towel or a hand drier.
  • Be proactive about the importance of handwashing and ensure that staff and children know how to wash their hands correctly as advised by the HSE and provide training where necessary[10]. This NHS video is a child friendly video demonstrating hand washing https://youtu.be/S9VjeIWLnEg
  • Ensure that there is alcohol-based hand rub or gel (the alcohol content should be at least 70%), primarily for adult use only, in areas where there is no running water e.g. at the entrance to the service or in the outdoor area. Keep the hand rub or gel out of the reach of children.
  • The alcohol-based hand rub must be applied vigorously over all hand surfaces. Alcohol based hand rubs are only effective if hands are not visibly dirty, if hands are visibly dirty then liquid soap and water should be used.
  1. How to wash your hands with soap and water (HSE)
  • Wet your hands with warm water and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together until the soap forms a lather.
  • Rub the top of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Do this for about 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands under running water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel.

  1. Children should wash their hands
  • When they arrive at the centre and before they go home
  • Before eating and drinking
  • After a nappy change or using the toilet
  • After playing outside
  • After sneezing or coughing into their hands
  • Whenever hands are visibly dirt

  1. Staff should wash their hand
  • When they arrive at the centre and before they go home
  • After coughing and sneezing
  • Before handling food, preparing bottles or feeding children
  • Between handling raw and cooked food
  • Before and after eating your own food – breaks/lunches
  • Before and after giving or applying medication or ointment to a child
  • After changing nappies, assisting a child to use the toilet or using the toilet themselves
  • If they move from one room to another room or from inside to outside areas
  • If they have physical contact with a child from another group other than their own group
  • After contact with bodily fluids (runny nose, spit, vomit, blood, faeces)
  • After cleaning tasks
  • After removing gloves
  • After handling rubbish
  • Whenever hands are visibly dirty
  • If in contact with someone who is displaying any COVID -19 symptoms
  • Before and after being on public transport [if using it]
  • Before and after being in a crowd
  • Before having a cigarette or vaping [staff are reminded the service is a non-smoking area]

Respiratory hygiene

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue
  • Make tissues readily accessible throughout the service with a dedicated pedal operated bin provided in each of the rooms and in the outdoor areas for easy disposal of used tissues.
  • Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing

Staff must:

  • Adopt good respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette
  • Ensure they are familiar with and follow respiratory hygiene guidance.

Face masks

  • It is not recommended currently in Ireland for the public to wear face masks as a mitigation strategy against the transmission of the coronavirus. It is currently the opinion of public health that their use, especially among young children, has the potential to cause more harm than good. This recommendation may change so it is important to keep up to date with any new advice from the government.

Vaccination

  • It may be recommended by the government that children, staff and parents are encouraged have the seasonal influenza vaccination this coming winter in order to minimise the risks associated with a possible resurgence of Covid-19 during the annual influenza season next winter 2020

Children’s learning and play spaces

  • Social distancing of 2 meters or 6 feet within childcare settings with very young children will be hard to maintain. Staff should implement social distancing as far as they are able, whilst ensuring children are kept safe and well cared for within their settings. Babies and toddlers will continue to need personal care and comforting.

  1. Groups of children
  • Organise children in small fixed groups or ‘bubbles’, so that children are with the same children each day and try to group friends together. This grouping of children helps to keep track of who has had contact with whom. Where possible have a dedicated staff member with each group or ‘bubble’.
  • Reduce circulation of children in the service and manage their movement in their groups or ‘bubbles’ between their room, the toilets, the outdoor area and any other areas of the service.
  • Ensure that children remain within their group or ‘bubble’ and do not mix with children from other groups.
  • Use markings on the ground and other ways to divide indoor and outdoor physical areas so as to support and guide children’s safe movement within their groups or ‘bubbles’ and reduce contact with children in other groups.
  • Help children to learn about social distancing by creating games e.g. spreading their arms out and not touching their friends in their group (more suited developmentally to preschool children)
  1. Environment
  • Consider the set-up of the room and the placement of activities, play material, toys and books throughout the room so as encourage space between children in their groups or ‘bubbles’.
  • Consider the spacing of cots, highchairs and chairs and keep them well apart.
  • Consider the table and chair set up for tabletop activities. Consider having less children at each table, use more tables and space out the chairs
  • Ventilate the environment as much as possible and within temperature requirements e.g. through opening windows in advance of children being in the room or while they are outside

  1. Activities
  • Plan individual activities, small group activities, staggered mealtimes and staggered indoor and outdoor play opportunities for the children in their groups or ‘bubbles’.
  • Do not have large group activities at this time so as to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
  • Limit the use of playdough, gloop or other similar play materials (on a temporary basis during this Covid-19 emergency) so as to reduce hand to hand contact between the children and cross contamination.
  • Limit food preparation activities (on a temporary basis during this Covid-19 emergency) where children take turns in preparing and later eating the food so as to reduce cross contamination.
  • Use the outdoor space as much as possible when the weather permits. This increases the space for activities to be set up and increases the space between children.
  1. Trips
  • Trips or outings should not be undertaken at this time as this exposes staff and children to further risks of transmission of the coronavirus which are difficult to predict and control

Mealtimes

  • When eating, children and staff should be encouraged to keep as much space as possible between them but also recognising that some young children will need staff assistance with their feeding.
  • Consider the table and chair set up for mealtimes. Consider having less children at each table, use more tables and space out the chairs.
  • Consider staggered meal and snack times where space is limited.
  • Staff should observe social distancing of 2 meters or 6 feet between each other in as far as possible.
  • Sharing of food should be actively discouraged between children and between staff.

Personal care

  • When providing personal care to babies such as nappy changing or supporting toddlers with toileting, staff should wear personal protective equipment i.e. disposable aprons and gloves.

Cleaning

  • Current evidence indicates that the virus causing COVID-19 can live on surfaces and objects from a few hours to a few days, so updated/enhanced cleaning schedules should be developed.
  • At least twice daily cleaning of surfaces and objects that are regularly touched is very important e.g. door handles, light switches, desks, tables, presses, cupboards, toilets, taps, sinks, phones, remote controls, computer keyboards, printing equipment, kitchen surfaces and floors.
  • Children’s rooms, staff offices, kitchen, washrooms and communal areas should be cleaned twice daily and whenever the areas are visibly dirty.
  • If disinfection of an area is required, it must be performed in addition to cleaning and never as a substitute.
  • Order and ensure that the service has a good supply of liquid soap, hand gel (70% alcohol at least), face masks, gloves and disposable aprons, cleaning and disinfectant products .
  • Before services re-open they should perform a deep clean of the premises both indoor and outdoor.
  • Services should maintain adherence to the regular cleaning programme which is documented and signed off.
  • Wash play items and toys daily and dry completely.
  • Toys used by babies and young children, which have been placed in their mouths, should be washed before reuse by another child.
  • Offer toys that can be easily cleaned and dried on a daily basis and remove toys and materials that are difficult to clean e.g. dress up clothes or soft toys during this temporary Covid-19 emergency.
  • Ask parents and children not to bring toys from home into the centre.
  • Regularly empty bins and use gloves when doing so.
  • Use warm water, household detergents and common disinfectants to clean surfaces

Staff

  • Staff should implement social distancing of 2 meters or 6 feet while they are working with the children in as far as possible, whilst ensuring children are kept safe and well cared for within their settings.
  • While it is recognised that babies and young children need physical contact and comfort for their safety, their wellbeing and to attend to their personal care needs, it is recommended that staff do not kiss children.
  • Staff should implement social distancing of 2 meters or 6 feet between themselves at all times with no physical contact between them and should implement a no hand shaking policy.
  • Where possible organise staff rotas to ensure continuity of staff with the same group of children.
  • Mixing of staff and children between rooms should be avoided where at all possible. Where staff have to move between rooms to support breaks and ensure staff: child ratio, staff must wash hands on entry and leaving a room.
  • Where possible organise staff into teams who consistently work together e.g. with a particular age group in a children’s room.
  • Organise staff breaks and staff areas so as to facilitate social distancing.
  • Office spaces should be reconfigured to ensure social distancing of 2 meters or 6 feet between the staff. Where staff share a desk or hot desk, surfaces that are regularly touched should be cleaned after each staff member has used the space.
  • Where it is difficult to organise staff spaces to facilitate social distancing consider installing physical barriers to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus between staff.
  • Staff should not share equipment such pens, cups, plates but should have these items for their own personal use.
  • Staff should be trained on new Infection control protocols.
  • Addendums to contracts may be required.
  • Addendums to job descriptions may be required.
  • Ensure staff breaks/lunches are staggered by reorganising and rearranging break areas. This can be done be arranging the same staff to have breaks at the same time. This should be in as small a team as is reasonably practicable.
    • Where a staff room is used ensure table/s and chair/s are placed far enough apart.

Meetings

  • Conduct meetings as much as possible using online remote means. Where face to face meetings are necessary the length of the meeting should be kept to a minimum and the participants must maintain physical distancing at all times.
  • Prevent gatherings of staff members in the service or on arrival or when leaving

Uniforms

If staff wear uniforms a fresh laundered one should be worn each day. If no uniform is worn service’s may need to make a decision and consider the advantages of a uniform even is for a temporary time. If no uniforms are worn strict protocols should be in place regarding clothing.

EMPLOYER’S OBLIGATIONS

Communication and Appointment of dedicated COVID 19 Health & Safety Representative

It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure appropriate communication is made with employees prior to return to work. This is to ensure that employees are aware of and sign off on what their responsibilities, policies, and protocols they must follow on returning to work relating to COVID 19.
Services must also extend their workplace policies and protocols in relation to infection prevention measures to all other persons such as visitors, contractors or suppliers who may attend their place of work.

As noted earlier an employer will appoint at least one lead worker representative. More than one representative should be appointed depending on the size of the service. The person/s should be clearly identifiable in the workplace. This person/s will be required to work in partnership with the employer to ensure the workplace policies and protocols are in place and support the monitoring of the measures to prevent the spread of COVID 19.

Services that have appointed health and safety officers who are not the managers may take on this role. Their role will be then to work with management in the service to support the measures to be put in place in this national protocol.

The person/s identified should receive the relevant and necessary training by their employer.

Employers may also engage the services of an external competent person to ensure the implementation of the changes required to ensure infection prevention and control measures in the workplace are in place.

The above actions must be implemented and communicated to employees and parents in the service prior to re-opening.

PRIOR TO RETURNING TO WORK

Employers are required to do the following before employees return to work:

  • Develop or update a business COVID 19 Response Plan
  • Update health and safety risk assessments and the Safety Statement.
  • Address the levels of risk associated with the workplace [see above]
  • Take into account individual worker’s risk factors [e.g. older workers, workers with any underlying medical conditions]
    • A return to work form is required to be signed off by all employees prior to return to work. This form will highlight the above information. This information is required to ensure the employer takes into consideration any worker that may be at higher risk than other employees due to COVID 19 and implement any addition measures that may be required or necessary in the workplace.

  • Include a plan on how to deal with a suspected case of COVID 19 in the workplace regarding an employee or child [see above]
  • Include the controls necessary to address the risks identified [see above]
  • Include how to address absenteeism due to COVID 19 as part of the absenteeism policy in the service
  • Support for employees who may be feeling anxious or stressed when they return to work. Some employees may have had a traumatic event since the mandated closure such as the seriousness illness or death of a family member, relative or friend, or be experiencing financial difficulties or problems with personal relationships.
    • Consider mental health and wellbeing training before they return on their return and providing a list of support services.
  • Some workers may be concerned about returning to work because of risk of infection or changes to job roles because of COVID 19 measures. Therefore, it is important [see above] to provide clear communication and information on changes in the workplace, the reasons why and the prevention and control measures that the service has put in place to reduce the risk of infection.
  • If services are engaged in Employee Assistance Programmes {EAP} to remind employees of this and to utilise the services available. If services do not have EAP in place the Health & Safety Authority provide a range of supports and advice on work related stress at https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Topics/Workplace Stress/. Employers can avail of an online risk assessment tool for addressing work related stress: WorkPositive [www.workpostive.ie]. Further information is also available at the Governments “In This Together Campaign” with useful information and tips at

https://www.gove.ie/en/campaigns/together/?referrer=together/

Ensure that there is a process of consultation and communication of the final plan to the employees when finalised.

HR Records/Policies

  • Develop a pre return to work form to be completed a minimum of 3 days prior to the date the employee is returning to work
    • that they have no symptoms of COVID 19
    • that they are not self-isolating or awaiting results of a COVID 19 test
    • Have you been advised by a doctor to self-isolate at this time? Yes/No
    • Have you been advised by a doctor to cocoon at this time? Yes/No
    • The form will require the employee to confirm to the best of their knowledge:
    • If an employee responds yes to any of the following questions, then they are strongly advised to follow the medical advice they receive or seek medical advice before returning to work.
    • The form should include question for older workers and workers with any underlying health conditions so that the employer may take this into consideration.
    • Confirm that employees are required to report to their employer any potential or identified family members with COVID 19 that they are in contact.

  • Develop an induction form with training for employees to be completed on or prior to their return to work and signed off by the employee. This induction must be supported by training for employees. Employers may commence this process through IT platforms and written/email communication with employees before they return to work.
    • Provide the current advice and guidelines on public health
    • Confirm what an employee should do if they develop symptoms, if a child develops symptoms or a work colleague develop symptoms [see above]
    • Confirm how the service will be organised to address the risk from COVID 19
    • Confirm the protocols around the COVID 19 response plan
    • Confirm the identified persons in the workplace as COVID 19 representatives e.g. Health & Safety Officer and Manager/Management.
    • Confirm to employees that the information regarding COVID 19 is evolving. Advices from public health office and the government are constantly being updated. It is important therefore to recognise that flexibility will be required from both employees and the employer to meet the measures to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • Update job descriptions to reflect a specific section on COVID19 under Health and Safety referring to policies, COVID 19 protocols and workplace responsibilities, etc.
  • Update disciplinary policies to ensure breach of health and safety regarding COVID 19 policies and protocols will be seen as gross misconduct and may result in final written warning or dismissal following the disciplinary process. Communicate the updated policy to employees.
  • Confidentiality sign off form in the event that any employees and their extended families, children, parents and their extended families are identified as having COVID 19.
  • Keeping a log of those working together in groups [see above regarding work practices/breaks etc] to enable facilitation of contact tracing.
    • Inform employees of the purpose of keeping this log. It may be possible in childcare services to identify through colour coding the staff teams that work/have breaks together etc.
  • Review and update the sick leave policy as relevant and communicate the updated policy to employees.

  • If there is any temporary restricting of working patterns/practices as may be necessary regarding COVID 19 prevention measures in the workplace, ensure this is done through negotiation and agreement with employees.

CHECKING OF PREMISES PRIOR TO RE-OPENING

Employers should ensure that prior to the employees coming into the service’s premises they should:

  • Check ventilation filters and if there is air conditioning run it for at least 24 hours
  • Ensure toilets are flushed on several occasions.
  • Run the taps.
  • Dispose of any used water from coffee makers and/or boilers and kettles– Refill and use and/or boil water and dispose of the water.
  • Check or treat all water tanks, if required.
  • Ensure all equipment is working properly – test them. Fire Alarm, Emergency Lightening, Fire Doors, Alarms, etc
  • Ensure you have adequate supply of PPE.
  • Ensure that a thorough and deep clean is done of the full premises all rooms and areas, including toys, equipment, bed linen, cots, chairs, tables, kitchen, oven, fridge, microwave, office area, etc.
  • Ensure that there are sufficient cleaning materials for each room and that there is a well-defined cleaning schedule for each room and the overall building.

General Information for Employees

  • Based on the guide the relevant information should be briefed to all employees through the induction back to work process and training.
  • Employees will be required to sign off on a pre return to work form a minimum of 3 days before they return.
  • Employees will be required to participate in an induction training programme and sign off that they have been inducted and trained.
  • Employees must read and sign off on all new and updated policy documents, protocols etc
  • Employees will be provided with instructions to follow:
    • if they develop signs and symptoms of COVID 19 during work and what to do
    • if children develop signs and symptoms of COVID 19 in the service
    • if a work colleague develops signs and symptoms of COVID 19 in the service
  • Each employee must have their own pen to complete forms to keep risk infection to a minimum.
  • Employees should use their own cups, plates and should ensure that if there is no dishwasher, they use paper towels to dry their own utensils.
  • Employees are required to:
    • be aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID 19 and monitor your own health and wellbeing
    • to self-isolate at home and contact your GP immediately for further advice if you feel you are displaying any signs or symptoms
    • report to their manager immediately is any symptoms develop during the working day

Signage in the Workplace

Employers should ensure that:

Information Posters are on display regarding signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

Up-to-date information on the Public Health advice issued by the HSE , HSA and Gov.ie is available in the staff room and notice boards as appropriate.

Some signage may need to be adapted as Child Friendly

[1] https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/22829a-return-to-work-safely-protocol/

[2] https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/472f64-covid-19-coronavirus-guidance-and-advice/

[3] https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/protect-yourself.html

[4] https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/symptoms.html

[5] http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/docs/COVHomeQuarantine.pdf

[6] https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/symptoms.html

[7] http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/docs/COVHomeQuarantine.pdf

[8] https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/people-at-higher-risk.html

[9] https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/newsfeatures/covid19-updates/partner-resources/

[10] https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/how-to-wash-your-hands.html.