From a total of 560 reported workplace accidents, 22 or four per cent have resulted in the loss of lives during last year. This was disclosed by Minister within the Social Protection Ministry, Keith Scott at the Ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health (OS&H) Department’s symposium, which opened on Wednesday at Herdmanston Lodge under the theme “Safety and Health and the Future of Work: Building on the knowledge and achievements accumulated over the years”.
Minister Scott said that four per cent is too high and his Ministry intends to ensure that all employers understand that in this country, the employees and their health come first and that the laws of Guyana at all stages must be enforced.
“We have not yet computed the cost of compensation paid by the National Insurance Scheme and other costs through civil proceedings. However, we have a policy in this Ministry that any fatal accident must be immediately investigated. And I can say without fear of contradiction that we have attained and maintained 100 per cent reporting and investigations of all fatal accidents that are work-related in this country since 2016 to now,” the Minister is quoted by the Department of Public Information (DPI) as saying.
According to the DPI report, the Minister, who has the responsibility for labour, stressed that safety must be given the prominence it deserves in the strategic plan of every enterprise. He alluded to the challenges stakeholders had to confront in the realm of OS&H in recent times including leakage of mercury at the Guyana Gold Board, leakage or escape of ammonia at a fishing enterprise on the East Bank of Demerara and contamination and death of Chinese nationals at the Manganese Company in North West District.
“These incidents have tested our preparedness to deal with major issues like oil spills, which we hope will never occur. We have the equipment and have to go [to] any part of Guyana to investigate accidents,” Minister Scott stated.
The Minister encouraged stakeholders to improve their work ethics and to prioritise the safety of workers so that workplace accidents can be avoided. He said a forensic investigation of all accidents, particularly those with fatal consequences, shows that they were avoidable if the necessary Standard Operating Procedures, including risk analysis, were carried out.
Meanwhile, Principal Assistant Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Eslyn Harris pointed out that OS&H stands at the forefront of the standards within the workplace but there is always the need for improvements.
Harris stressed that work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses occur every day and many people lose their lives every year. Therefore, the need for advancements in OS&H in the workplace is clear and urgent. She called on stakeholders to work together to ensure that workplace accidents are completely eliminated, since the task cannot be achieved alone.
The symposium saw presentations from the panellists which included representatives from the Government, University of Guyana (UG), Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) and the National Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) among others.