COVID-19: Frequently Asked Health and Safety Questions

This page provides answers to the most frequently asked questions which HSENI has received during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What advice is available to employers for PPE supply issues within the asbestos removal industry?

HSE have provided guidance which has been added to the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA) website:

What advice is available to workers with concerns about mental health?

Here to help is a locally developed App to signpost individuals to a full range of services and support for anyone in crisis. The app can be downloaded from the Apple App store or Google Play store. Further information is available at:

Is there specific advice on mental health and wellbeing for the construction industry?

CITB in association with Inspire is publicising a confidential telephone support service to help members with mental health and wellbeing. Details are available online and via CITB social media feeds. Further sources of help are available including the Lighthouse Club which provide an industry helpline for construction workers in crisis.

Is there any advice for employees working at home during the pandemic?

Yes, an information leaflet has been produced by HSENI.

Should employers introduce temperatures checks as a further precautionary measure to protect its workforce against COVID-19?

No. Whilst the general population have been asked to consider a high temperature as one indicator, currently there are no government guidelines recommending the introduction of temperature monitoring as a standard within the workplace.

What advice is there for employers who have staff returning from overseas?

Advice has been offered from PHE in relation to the general public returning from overseas: When you return to the UK: protect yourself and others. In the context of work, further advice should be sought from the Public Health Agency, if required.

What advice is available to employers on providing adequate first aid cover during the pandemic?

HSE has a web page on first aid cover during coronavirus. In summary, it may still be safe to operate with reduced cover. High risk activities will need to be considered. It may also be possible in some circumstances to share first aid cover with another business.

Have special arrangements been put in place to maintain a First Aid at Work qualification/certificate which will be due to expire during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Where first aid certificates expire on or after 16 March 2020 and requalification training cannot be accessed because of coronavirus you may qualify for a 3-month extension.

To qualify for the extension, you must be able to explain why you haven’t been able to requalify and demonstrate what steps you have taken to access the training, if asked to do so.

What advice is there for bakeries and other food businesses where respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is used under normal circumstances?

Adequate control of hazardous substances within the workplace can often be achieved using good working practices and local exhaust ventilation (engineering control) which means that employees may not need to wear dust masks. HSE has produced specific advice for the food industry where there may be cases of temporary unavailability of PPE.

Is there any advice for employers on safe working practices relating to COVID-19?

The Minister for DfE published safety guidance for workplaces on 17 April 2020 giving practical advice and steps to be considered during the Covid-19 crisis. The guidance document is entitled COVID-19 Working Through This Together – A Practical Guide to Making Workplaces Safer.

What advice is available to employers relating to the provision of face masks and other PPE for employees?

Current government guidelines indicate there is very little evidence of widespread benefit from the use of face masks outside of the clinical or care settings, where they play a very important role. Further guidance on who needs PPE and when, and who does not, based on UK clinical expertise and WHO standards is available within guidance published by the Department of Health & Social Care entitled Covid-19: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Plan.

COVID-19 related PPE

Before PPE intended to protect UK workers in any environment from COVID-19 can be placed on the UK market, it must meet the essential safety requirements under EU Regulation 2016/425 and be assessed in line with the regulatory easements in EU Recommendation 2020/403. This means that the product does not need to complete the formal conformity assessment procedures by a Notified Body, however:

1. The product must be in the process of conformity assessment with a Notified Body;

2. The Notified Body must attest that your product would pass the conformity assessment process if it was to complete the process; and

3. The PPE must carry the Notified Body’s number on each piece of COVID-19 related PPE, so that the market surveillance authority, in Northern Ireland HSENI are the Market Surveillance Authority for PPE within the workplace setting, can confirm that the manufacturer has started the conformity assessment procedures and that the Notified Body has found it meets essential safety requirements

Research: review of personal protective equipment provided in health care settings to manage risk during the coronavirus outbreak

For the latest information on PPE in health care settings during COVID-19, please see the following guidance from HSE (GB):

Can employees that are ‘shielding’ return to the workplace?

‘Shielding’ involves individuals that are at high risk and clinically extremely vulnerable to stay at home until the end of June. Further detailed guidance on shielding is available online from PHE.

Resources