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Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Health Minster Robin Swann today urged companies across Northern Ireland to prioritise the safety of their staff. They also reminded workers of their obligation to protect themselves and their co-workers during this crisis.

The Ministers were keen to highlight the guidance from the Public Health Agency (PHA) and from the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) that is in place.

Minister Dodds also confirmed that she will establish a workplace safety engagement forum. It will include a broad range of stakeholders including local businesses, PHA, HSE, trade unions, councils and government.

Minister Dodds said: “Under the current extraordinary circumstances, I understand the concern among both employees and companies. HSENI has received an unprecedented number of calls seeking information and raising concerns. Whilst I am pleased to report that many companies have taken the actions needed to put measures in place, others still need to do more.

“The guidelines are in place to help assist companies meet their legal duty to protect employees. At this time, more than any other time, it is essential that we work together for our greater good. For the protection of our workforce and of our economy.

“I am pleased to confirm that we are establishing an engagement forum - comprising key stakeholders and chaired by the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) - to discuss and review workplace safety and act as arbiter in any disputes. By working better together we can keep the workplace safe.”

Minister Swann said: “Every one of us, in all walks of life, must play a full part in the fightback against Covid-19. Adhering to public health guidance is essential if we are to protect the health service and save lives.

“I want to thank all those companies who are doing the right thing and have the right measures in place. To those who are dragging their feet, I have to tell them that the time for excuses is long past.”