Donegal firm to remain open despite calls to close due to Covid-19 pandemic

Inishowen-based E&I Engineering listed as an 'essential' business

E&I Engineering

Donegal-based E&I Engineering

One of Donegal's largest employers will remain open, despite calls for it close due to the coronavirus crisis.

Management at E&I Engineering have moved to alleviate fears of inadequate measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Concerns have been raised amongst staff of the Burnfoot-based plant. A number of social media posts over the weekend also called for the plant to shut down temporarily.

Staff at the engineering plant contacted the Inish Times expressing fears that not enough has been done to protect workers from being exposed to the coronavirus.

The Inish Times has also been contacted by residents in the Burnfoot area concerned at the volume of E&I employees using local amenities.

One employee, who did not wished to be named, said: “Not enough is being done to protect workers. No protective clothing has been given to workers. There's hardly any hand sanitiser.

“We are all crammed in there so there's no chance of social distancing. It's just business as usual.”

Last week An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced strict new measures to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus.

In his speech, the Taoiseach said that for a two week period until Easter Sunday, everyone must stay at home unless their work was essential or if they were buying food or travelling to medical appointments. People may only leave their homes to exercise within a two kilometre radius of their homes.

The government also provided a list of businesses that have been deemed as 'essential', which management at E&I comfirmed includes them.

E&I Engineering managing director Philip O'Doherty told the Inish Times that the health and safety of staff has been of "primary concern" of management.

He said a number of measures have been implemented at the firm to help stop the spread of the virus amongst staff.

“We are an essential business,” Mr O'Doherty said. “We supply critical power clients at data centres and in hospitals particularly.

“Our Switchgear needs to ensure reliable continuous electrical power to these facilities.

“The staff's health and safety is of the upmost importance and we have been following the guidelines set out by the government.”

Asked about the calls to close the plant in Burnfoot, Mr O'Doherty said: “I would ask these people to read the list of essential businesses that Leo Varadkar talked about.

“We are clearly one of those businesses that he was talking about.”

The measures, implemented across E&I sites in Burnfoot and Campsie in Derry, include: reduced number of workers in buildings at one time, staggered shift times, remote access for office workers, increased cleaning of facilities, new 'hand wash breaks' four times per shift, staggered break times and 'safe space' mechanisms within all canteens and kitchen areas to ensure the two metre social distancing guidelines are met.

Staff at the Burnfoot site have now also been banned from leaving company grounds apart from returning to their cars, due to the concerns of local residents.

Staff who leave the companies car park in their vehicles, for whatever reason, will not be permitted re-entry to the car park or work that day.

All employees have been instructed to bring packed lunches.

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