We have read so many articles in the media about workplace accidents around the various regions, including the tragedies of workers falling from buildings under construction in Georgetown. These accidents have resulted in injuries and in too many cases, the death of workers.
We can only imagine the adverse impacts these accidents have caused on the life of the workers and their families. Some are left traumatized and others are grieving, not to mention loss of income while the expenses remain.
We can reflect for a moment on some of the accidents that occurred during the first four months of 2014. These are:
● Construction workers injured by falling zinc sheets (Kaieteur News January 18, 2014).
● Labourer falls three floors through elevator chute (Kaieteur News April 21, 2014).
● Labourer killed by falling mirrors (Kaieteur News April 24, 2014).
● Man survives four story fall (Kaieteur News May 15, 2014).
We honestly believe, and it is the accepted position of professional safety and health practitioners, that not just the aforementioned accidents, but all accidents can and must be prevented. However, achieving a zero injury rate requires continuous training and accident/incident awareness programmes, combined with monitoring and where necessary enforcement. The realization of the business value of Occupational Safety and Health in the workplace is the first step towards this. Sound safety programmes, among other measures, improve productivity, decrease delays, increase worker morale, and reduce both financial and personal costs. Proper safety planning must be a main tool in any company or project management system.
On the surface one would be forgiven for believing that many employers, and in particular construction project managers do not have an interest in Occupational Safety and Health. However, we are of the view that it is not a lack of interest but rather a lack of awareness and understanding of the benefits of sound safety and health practices to their business, and in the case of our workforce, of the seriousness of the potential impact upon them and their families if they are injured or killed.
We must not wait for an accident to happen or for International Occupational Safety and Health day alone to host symposiums and promote best safety & health practices.
This has to be an on-going process. As our country continues with its development the various sectors of industry will develop and grow with it. This is particularly the case with the construction industry, which may well have the fastest emerging employment rate and alongside that the fastest increasing hazard exposure rate to workplace risks for the workers. Therefore, it should go without saying, that we need to synchronize the growth in Occupational Safety and Health awareness with these emerging and growing industries.
I am therefore strongly recommending, that if we are serious, that we all work to find and develop sustainable ways to work with such organizations as the Advisory Council in Occupational Safety and Health, the Ministry of Labour, Occupational Safety & Health, the Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry Ltd, the private sector commission, the unions, and the media to disseminate information on Occupational Safety and Health and guidance for best practice in Guyana
In conclusion, for the safety and well-being of our workers, it is time to put our concerted efforts into the prevention of any further occurrence like those mentioned in the foregoing. Working together we can enhance the working conditions and social development to the benefit of employers, employees, and the citizens of Guyana.