There is need for strong, well trained and adequately staffed labour inspectorates

Dear Editor,

Every year, led by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), on 28 April there are International observances of Occupational Safety and Health Day; and 12th June as World Day against Child Labour. The combined thrust this year was the promotion of safety and health in the working environment with an emphasis on safety of young workers and to end child labour.

 It is the legal and moral obligation of employers in the private and public sectors and Government agencies to provide and maintain high standards in occupational safety and health in workplaces and the working environment. The aim should also be to sustain a culture of prevention. Together with the relevant state agencies and the representatives of workers and employers, national drives should be supported to promote high standards in OSH at work. In keeping with international standards, the recording and notification of occupational accidents, occupational diseases, dangerous work place occurrences, and suspected cases of occupational diseases are essential requirements in the monitoring, evaluation, adopting preventative and corrective measures for a safe and healthy working environment.

It is widely known that work-related statistical information points to the incidence of accidents, injuries, diseases and deaths which are part of the reality of the world of work with severe social, economic and human consequences not only for workers and their families, but also for the national community. It impacts on costs relating to production and productivity and on the national and private social security systems.

While it is a responsibility of employers to establish an effective OSH management system for safe work places and the working environment, it is also the responsibility of the State and workers and their Trade Unions to encourage compliance and build a culture of safety that would prevent exposure, risks, and hazards without adequate safety precautions and protective measures including appropriate safety devices and safety wear. Together they can formulate, implement and periodically review coherent national policies and programmes to prevent dangerous occupational exposures, accidents and injuries to employees by minimizing hazards and risks, as far as is possible.

Safety Policy

In line with Guyana’s Labour legislation including the Occupational Safety and Health Act No. 32 of 1997 and ratified ILO Conventions, which are International Treaties, Public and private sector Employers should be  committed to develop and work within a policy framework which includes the principles contained in the following statements

• The public and private sector employers regard the promotion of Occupational, Safety and Health and the prevention of occupational hazards within their work places and environs as essential responsibilities and mutual objective of management and all employees of the enterprise.

• The policy is 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, including the public in so far as they come in contact with the enterprise or its products.

The public and private sector should be committed to:

–         provide and maintain safe and healthy working conditions at each of its

           locations in keeping with the relevant statutory requirements;

–         provide integrated safety, job training and instructions for all employees

           and  additional safety training where appropriate;

–         provide all safety devices and protective equipment required by statute and

           supervise their use;

–          ensure that articles and substances purchased for use at work have been so

           designed and constructed as to be safe and without risk to health, and that

           full information is made available to suppliers where additional precautions

           are required; and

–         maintain continuing attention to all aspects of safety and interactions with

           staff by:

–          regular internal safety inspections of all work locations and offices  by  

           suitably qualified persons,

–          consulting and keeping employees informed on safety matters,

–          ensuring that all entry and exit points are known and visible to all

            employees,  customers and other persons using the premises;

–           establishing and meeting regularly with the enterprise safety committees; and

–           providing and maintaining a work place that is safe, stress free and without

            risks to health and occupational diseases and with adequate facilities for the

             welfare of all employees.

Obligations of Employees

 Every employee also has a responsibility to exercise reasonable skill and care for the health and safety of himself/herself and of all other persons at work places. Employees must also co-operate with management in its statutory duties to maintain a high standard of safety and health at work. They must report all accidents that have led to, or may lead to injury, illness and any infection; and to co-operate in the investigation of accidents and diseases with the view of preventing a recurrence.

There is therefore the need for the national system to provide for strong, well trained and adequately staffed labour inspectorates with the financial and material means to enable them to discharge their advisory, technical, promotional, and investigative work effectively. Indeed, it is the individual and joint responsibility of the governments, and the social partners, represented by employers’ and workers’ organizations, Churches/religious organizations and civil society to address the problems relating to Occupational safety and health in work places, and to end Child Labour which denies childhood development and education in the national community interest.

Yours faithfully,

Samuel J. Goolsarran

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