Last week we observed Occupational Health and Safety Week. A week before, I read of two accidents on construction sites in Georgetown. At one of the sites, Giftland Mega Mall at Liliendaal, the accident resulted in the death of a worker while the other accident which occurred on the Food Court building at Robb and Camp streets, left a young man injured.
The stories associated with these accidents and the work sites definitely should have seen a more proactive role from concerned agencies and bodies but as many would say the lot of the poor and voiceless is just that. From the corner of my mind I am being reminded that along with the human right to work there is an accompanying rider which the employer and society is obligated to satisfy, a safe working environment.
Based on third party reports the necessary conditions to create safe working environments were absent in both cases. These include the requisite safety gear, instructions and notices. Organisations like the ILO agree that while it is understandable that developers would work on a tight budget, safety should never be compromised in the process. From all appearances this was one of the areas that was not given adequate consideration.
It is instructive to note that on one of the sites the need for safety is seemingly addressed as events unfold. At that site based on local press reports there were three significant occurrences of injuries
• a few months back a worker was injured after falling from scaffolding,
• a passerby suffered injuries from falling debris and most recently
• a worker walked through an open elevator shaft.
The press to my dismay also reported that the OHS Division of the Ministry of Labour adopted the position that they could not deal with at least two of these incidents since they received no complaints. That is like a policeman seeing two mangled vehicles and saying he did not get a report so there was no accident.
With reference to the site with the three reported accidents, one would have expected that the Chief Occupational Health and Safety Officer would have taken action to
• ensure that the site comes into compliance
• ensure that the remedial efforts are sufficiently publicised
• publicly state what sanctions/penalties were applicable for the breaches.
In view of the fact that currently we are experiencing these phenomena within the construction sector which brings into focus the shortcomings in areas such as Occupational Health and Safety, it is time that a prerequisite to commence construction on (large) projects should be an OHS plan. The implementation of this plan must also be monitored.