Guyana’s rapid rise means “Youths must pursue careers in OSH”

Dear Editor,
It is good to see that Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton recently “…emphasised the importance of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), … (and was) urging young people to pursue studies in this area, as it is considered one of the top-ranking future professions”. In fact, as Hamilton pointed out, “Referring to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) assessment done on the 11 most important jobs for the future, the OSH ranks the second most important.”
Putting this into proper perspective, as Guyana is gathering momentum, we need to realise that OSH is of premier concern worldwide, as it covers the practice that deals with the safety, welfare, and social well-being of workers, in all occupations, and in so doing, seeks to provide a safe working environment for the entire staff (and by the way, this is a legal and human responsibility), and Guyana embraces this framework.
At the level of the United Nations, the issue is treated with great care, as the UN itself frequently faces multiple and simultaneous crises across the globe. The HLCM (High-Level Committee on Management) on Occupational Health and Safety Forum is now a respected ‘UN system-wide forum’ established at its 38th session in October 2019, and is very proactive, operating with a sense of urgency and determination, to build on the cumulative experience of learning from increasing tragic events globally, to preserve the system’s ability to deliver on its programmatic mandates that deal with the safety, welfare, and social well-being of workers, in all occupations and at every level.
I hope readers get the drift, that is, Guyana is actually following international best practices, where employers must ensure compliance for the betterment of all employees. And it is good that the Government is driving this kind of philosophy.
As the Minister said, “… OSH (related jobs) is not a profession that is (well) known like many others, (at least in Guyana, but) it will do Guyana great good, personally and collectively, if and when “…young people try and seek out opportunities to learn more about OSH in every sector and be a part of this growing profession”. My advice is that as awareness grows, those interested in careers that combine advocacy, education, and hands-on work, consider positively the field of occupational health and safety (OSH). After all, OSH professionals help protect workers from risks on the job by identifying potential hazards and developing plans to mitigate them; it is not just about ‘after-the-fact’ compensation. It elevates to pre-emptive preparation. Hence the clarion call from Minister Hamilton was most important.
I suggest that prospective ‘pursuants’ in this emerging sector ‘learn up’ on OSH, as it calls for commitment. The studies in this regard focus on identifying, assessing, and controlling (potential) risks arising from workplace activities. OSH professionals protect workers from hazards that can lead to injuries, illnesses, and death. These include physical risks (eg, exposure to hazardous substances), ergonomic risks (eg, repetitive strain injuries), and, increasingly, psychological health risks.
Further, OSH practitioners proactively manage risk by seeking out potential hazards before they result in harm. This work is done through a combination of methods, including hazard identification and analysis, risk assessment, and the development of control measures. Once potential hazards have been identified, OSH professionals collaborate with employers and employees to develop safe work practices to help minimise the likelihood of harm or injury.
I know it is almost redundant for me to say that the Government is embarking on a vital aspect where Guyana’s workforce is concerned. It is heading into an almost ‘once neglected’ area, and this means lots of effort will be forthcoming, hence the need for many to decide on careers in OSH.
Let’s remember that Guyana is rapidly growing and the downside of this, is that if we do not anticipate, then many dangers will surface and growth and development will be stymied. Quite rightly, the Labour Minister opined that “… it is a national matter that we have to address. It’s a matter of our culture and how we view this specific issue”.
Editor, my plea is that the vision will be embraced, and OSH will become everyone’s concern.

HB Singh