Antigen Testing – What should employers do?

The revised Return to Work Safely Protocol, published in May, has a new section on antigen tests.

Some employers have been implementing them, and the Tanaiste is on record as encouraging more employers to do so.

The primary reasons to use antigen tests is to aid public health in detecting COVID-19.

All the other safety protocols – mask wearing, hand washing, safe distancing, etc. – still need to be adhered to, and staff with symptoms still need to contact their GP to get a COVID-19 (PCR) test.

The Protocol sets out on page 30-33 what considerations the employers should take into account re antigen testing. Some of the key points are:

  • Engage with your local RTW Safely reps and H&S
  • Consider whether an internal or external run programme of antigen testing is most suited to your business, based on the resources available to manage the programme and the administrative burden (e.g. swabbing, recording, reporting, communications, testing),
  • Check the manufacturer’s product information to ensure that the RADT test selected is appropriate for the testing programme being considered
  • Determine the RADT testing regime that is most appropriate based on the needs of the business (for example, twice a week; daily etc.), the workers and that any risk assessments are completed,
  • Agree process for workers who do not wish to take part in the RADT testing,
  • Train all staff who are engaged in the RADT testing so they can undertake the tests safely and correctly and put in place appropriate supervision to ensure competency,
  • Establish quality assurance process for batch acceptance of RADT tests,
  • Put in place appropriate procedures for disinfection and waste disposal,
  • Agree clear protocols for management of positive cases, including access to a confirmatory PCR test and provide instructions to workers on what to do when they get either a negative or positive test result. Workers must remain at home if they are displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 or are feeling unwell, even if the worker has had a negative RADT result,
  • Maintain personal info in line with GDPR
  • Consider if the testing regime should also be implemented for contractors and other visitors to the workplace,
  • If a company proposes using self-test RADTs in the future (i.e., once these are CE-Marked for use on the EU and Irish market), the employer will need to consider if the worker will complete the test at home and if agreed, what additional measures may be needed. For example, how the worker should be trained and how to dispose of any biological waste.