Sep 23, 2016 News
Guyana is crafting a new policy on Occupational Safety and Health to ensure greater emphasis on
preventing injuries and fatalities in the workplace. The architects say that too often the issue is on the periphery.
The document, drafted with support from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), was presented to stakeholders for feedback when the Ministry of Social Protection hosted a consultation session earlier this week.
Among the stakeholders consulted were the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC); the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUG); the Consultative Association of Guyanese Industries (CAGI); and the National Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH).
The current OSH Policy was first introduced in 1993 and subsequently revised in 1996. It sets guidelines for compliance to ensure safety is prioritized in the working environment.
That policy had outlined specific roles for the then Ministries of Labour and Health; the NACOSH; and social partners such as the trades Union and CAGI, which represents the private sector. The new policy seeks to build on the existing one taking into account modern workplace practices.
According to the Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, Keith Scott, “It is necessary now more than ever to ensure that the health and safety of workers and I dare add, management also, be elevated to “Boardroom Status”.
“I have decided to invoke the concept of the boardroom status, simply because much too often, safety is treated as an appendage to management systems and is therefore relegated to the periphery of the strategic Plans, Programmes and Budgets, of many organizations.”
The Minister added that it is against that backdrop that a safety policy and by extension, safety itself, becomes a casualty rather than a valued instrument. This he believes must be eliminated from the thought processes and practices.
The Minister charged those gathered to review the draft document that will be finalized as the new policy on OSH.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Protection, Mrs. Lorene Baird, thanked the ILO for its consistent contribution to Guyana’s development, and expressed hope that at the end of the consultation, Guyana would have a new OSH policy that reflects its needs.
Advocating greater OSH in the workplace, General Secretary of FITUG, Kenneth Joseph, took to the popular maxim “accidents don’t just happen, they are caused” to stress the impact workplace accidents can have on the country’s productivity and workers’ well being.
“It therefore, behoves all management structures to put Occupational Safety at the top, the core and the bottom of their policy from conception to daily operationalizing of their enterprises whether Field, Factory,
Office or otherwise,” he said.
Joseph noted that in spite of the provisions of the OSH Act and Guyana signing the ILO Convention No.155, there are still some errant employers whose level of compliance leaves much to be desired.
One way of ensuring greater OSH compliance, according to Advisor to CAGI, Mr. Samuel Goolsarran, is frequent inspections by Labour and Occupational Safety and Health Officers.
“The Labour Ministry must be commended for this initiative to conduct labour inspections in a revitalized way…it is generally accepted that the best way of ensuring compliance is to prevent any violations of labour regulations through a prevention oriented inspection system guided by international labour standards.”
On the other hand, employers are obligated to do all that is reasonably practical to prevent personal injury and damage to property and to protect everyone from foreseeable work hazards and risks, while employees should exercise reasonable skill and care in their duties, he added.
Meanwhile, Vice President of GTUC, Mr. Norris Whitter noted that the OSH Policy is framed in the Decent Work Country Programme for Guyana, which was coined with support from the ILO. A new Decent Work Country Programme is also being crafted simultaneously. However, Whitter noted that to date many of the initiatives have not been implemented.
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