New COVID-19 public health measures were announced by the Irish Government on Tuesday, 15 September and can be viewed here. Water services - including those provided by the GWS sector - continue to be recognised as essential services. Schemes must put appropriate arrangements are in place to ensure any staff or volunteers are operating safely and in compliance with the latest government guidance.
On Friday, 20th November 2020, the Government published updated guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace to staff. The ‘Work Safely Protocol’ is a revision of the ‘Return to Work Safely Protocol’ which was published in May. The revision of the Protocol was necessary to reflect the Government’s Plan for ‘Living with COVID-19’, which was published in September.
The revised Protocol incorporates the current advice on the Public Health measures needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community and workplaces as issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), the Department of Health and Government. The Protocol is a general document applicable to all sectors. It sets out the minimum measures required in every place of work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to facilitate the re-opening of workplaces following temporary closures and the ongoing safe operation of those workplaces.
It is important for Group Water Schemes to familiarise themselves with this document and implement specific measures and contingency arrangements to protect workers and volunteers. Hand washing and/or hand sanitising facilities should be made available to anyone working on behalf of your scheme. Social distancing guidelines should be observed at all time. Indoor meetings are not advised at this time unless absolutely essential and where held, must comply with the latest government guidance. NFGWS Development Staff continue to be available to advise and assist schemes if needed.
Appropriate signage and posters should be erected on group water scheme sites. Up to date signage is available from here. Below is an example from the West Limerick GWS (Killeedy site), where signage has been displayed to ensure people entering the site are aware of the various measures and requirements.
Examples of appropriate signage and posters:
Currently, meetings are restricted depending on which level your county is in under the National Framework for living with Covid. At this time, no meetings should be held indoors and GWS are encouraged to hold meetings by virtual means. In 2020, the Government introduced emergency legislation to facilitate AGMs, SGMs, EGMs or other general meetings being held by virtual means. This legislation has since been extended until June 2021. ICOS issued an advice note to co-operatives to help them set up and organise AGMs virtually. The NFGWS has also developed template documents to assist schemes wishing to hold their AGM virtually. GWSs needing assistance are advised to contact their local NFGWS Development Officer.
NFGWS template MS Word document...click here
Further information on COVID-19 can be accessed here:
- Most up to date Government Advice
- ICOS updated advice on COVID-19 General Meetings the AGM 24th August 2020 - Emergency Legislation
- ICOS updated advice on COVID-19 Board Meetings 25th May 2020
- Further information from WHO on COVID-19
- Roadmap for reopening society and business
- Return to Work Safely Protocol (May 2020)
- Work Safely Protocol ( November 2020 - Revised version of the 'Return to Work Safely Protocol')
List of NFGWS advice notes and relevant material issued to the GWS sector since the 10th March 2020.
- NFGWS COVID-19 Advice Note 1 - 10th March 2020
- NFGWS COVID-19 Advice Note 2 - 20th March 2020
- NFGWS COVID-19 Advice Note 3 - 30th March 2020
- NFGWS COVID-19 Advice Note 4 - 15th May 2020
- NFGWS press release 19th March 2020