Coalition backs clean air Bill in workplaces and countrywide

Proposed law intends to afford all workers right to fresh air and provides for inspections

The Dáil was told on Wednesday that the Government would not oppose the Workplace Ventilation Bill 2021, but that it would need some redrafting. File photograph: The Irish Times

The Dáil was told on Wednesday that the Government would not oppose the Workplace Ventilation Bill 2021, but that it would need some redrafting. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

The Government has said it supports the principles and objectives of a People Before Profit Bill that aims to bring in the “right to clean air” in workplaces and schools across the country.

Minister of State at the Department of Employment Damien English told the Dáil on Wednesday that the Government would not oppose the Workplace Ventilation Bill 2021, but that it would need some redrafting.

The Bill proposes to give all workers the right to sufficient fresh air in enclosed places of work and provides that workers can seek to have their workplace inspected by the Health and Safety Authority.

The legislation further provides that the Health and Safety Authority can issue Improvement Notices where high levels of CO2 are detected. The Bill passed through the second stage of the Dáil on Wednesday.

Mr English said there are “certain legal and practical aspects” of the proposal that “require greater consideration between now and committee stage”.

He said the Bill was well intentioned but will need to ensure it does not invertedly deter businesses incorporating Covid-19 mitigating measures into their overall workplace risk assessment policies and processes.

“Ventilation in workplaces needs to be looked at beyond Covid-19 . . . this is an opportunity to put measures in place to bring about a more long-term and more sustainable and more realistic approach to workplace ventilation,” he added.

Schools and workplaces

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy has called on the Government to fast-track the Bill and help schools and workplaces implement proper ventilation.

“It is positive that the Government is not opposing our ventilation Bill to give the right to clean air to workers and students and that this Bill is set to be passed today,” he said.

“However, we cannot simply let [it] sit on a shelf gathering dust; it must be progressed and implemented rapidly.”

Socialist Party & Solidarity TD Mick Barry said if the Bill passes through the Dáil on Wednesday and goes to committee stage it must be dealt with as “a matter of urgency . . . top of the agenda”.

Mr Barry said it would be “cynicism of the most extreme kind” if the Government was to delay the Bill at committee level and “didn’t go any further”.