Labour Minister Dr Nanda Gopaul says the onus is on both employers and employees to be educated about safety rules and chemicals that are banned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
He was delivering the feature address at a symposium held at the Regency Hotel in observance of World Day for Occupational Safety and Health on Monday,
Several presentations were made by representatives from the private sector, government agencies and students under this year’s theme ‘Safety and health in the use of chemicals at work.’
According to a Government Information agency (GINA) report, the minister said very often accidents occur on worksites and the relevant authorities are not notified.
“While many of the accidents are not being reported, they are happening, and we should be concerned. It is mandatory that all accidents that occur on the work site be reported to the ministry,” he said. As Guyana undergoes a construction boom more attention should be given to the construction sector. “For too long we take things for granted, for too long we just think we could put on slippers and go on the construction site or to go in the sugar fields without observing the necessary rules and regulations,” he said.
Gopaul then charged employers to put the necessary safety equipment in place to prevent accidents and to make sure that they have insurance. He also said it was imperative that both employers and employees be educated about safety rules and chemicals that are banned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
In his address, representative of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG), Seepaul Narine said that safety is everybody’s business, and even housewives using chemicals must be educated on health and occupational safety. In Guyana, he said, “some employers continue to take chances and cause harm to people and even death.”
Narine also pointed out that employers must ensure that all chemicals used at workplaces are properly labelled, and there must be records of those chemicals.
“I am appealing to employers to make the workplace safe because no amount of compensation can replace a life,” Narine said.
Meanwhile, Lincoln Lewis, General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress lauded the ministry for hosting the forum which he said will help to bring some level of awareness to employers and employees on occupational health and safety.
World Day for Occupational Safety and Health was launched in 2003 to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases worldwide. It is an awareness campaign aimed at focusing international attention on emerging trends in the field of occupational safety and health, and on the magnitude of work related injuries, diseases and fatalities.
In 2012 Guyana ratified the ILO convention 155 Occupational Safety and Health, while the Occupational Health and Safety Act was enacted since 1997 and came into force in 1999.
GINA said an essay and poster competition was held as part of this year’s observances and the participating schools received prizes and certificates of participation.