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Ministry accused of not putting emphasis on safety and health

Ministry accused of not putting emphasis on safety and health

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There are some large employers in St Vincent and the Grenadines who do not put emphasis on safety and health.{{more}}

And according to president of the National Labour Congress Noel Jackson, the Ministry of Health and the Environment is one of them.

Jackson made the assertion at a one-day workshop on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), held on October 10, for chief executive officers and others in managerial positions.

The event allowed for CEO and managers of organisations to learn how to effectively contribute to OHS reform, which will go towards the harmization of OHS legislation.

In his address at the workshop, Jackson said he hoped that the forum would be used as an important instrument in ensuring that there is significant input into the legislation.

He said that the topic has been under discussion for a number of years.

“It’s not a topic to be exhausted,” he contended.

According to Jackson, those involved needed to be more creative to establish standards at the workplace.

The importance of OHS cannot be over emphasized, Jackson explained.

“That is the reason why in every single collective agreement we sign, there is a clause that deals with the issue of occupational health and safety,” he said.

Jackson said that he welcomed the news that after 10 years or so, the OHS legislation is going to be addressed.

This was needed, he said, because there are some big employers who do not put emphasis on safety and health.

One such employer, according to Jackson, is the Ministry of Health, which employs persons to work with harmful chemicals in the insect and vector control department.

The collective agreement, he explained, ensured that regular tests and check-ups be done to ensure the proper health of the employees; but it is difficult to ensure that the tests and check-ups were being carried out.

Jackson explained that one of the employees had died, and while it was difficult to link her exposure to the harmful chemicals to her death, it could have been a probable cause of death.

“The OSH forum is basically to encourage you as employers to participate and increase your responsiveness to proposed legislation,” Helena Thomas, president of the St Vincent Employers’ Federation explained.

“As the head, the buck stops with you,” she continued.

Thomas continued, saying that it is important that persons in managerial positions be involved in consultations, so that they can note some of the concerns.

“After all, when the bill becomes law, it will have an impact on organizations.

“You need to see what it is you need to do and to consider the individual perspective,” Thomas said.

Safety is no accident, she declared, adding that every worker has the right to a safe working environment, to be properly trained and to refuse unsafe work.

“There is no work worth risking a life or a limb,” she said.

Minister of Labour Maxwell Charles said that his department sought the assistance of the International Labour Organisation’s regional office’s assistance to draft up legislation to deal with the issue of safety and health.

“We now have a draft bill for an OHS Act,” Charles declared.

He said that the document was delivered to his desk about two months ago, adding that it contained recommendations and regulations which can be applied and are in line with the ILO standards.

The next step in the process would be to work with the attorney general’s office to ensure the bill becomes an Act.

Charles, as the minister of labour, also gave the assurance that his department would handle the issue and ensured that the standards as outlined in the legislation would be met. (DD)

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