OHS policy to be implemented countrywide

– working conditions, rights, safety of workers main focus

In order to improve occupational health and safety by 2020, the Social Protection Ministry has officially launched a new Occupational Health and Safety policy that is to be implemented country-wide.
This is according to Permanent Secretary of the Social Protection Ministry, Lorene Baird, who stated that the aim of this policy is to protect all workers from health and safety hazards while they are at their respective jobs.
“It sets out duties for all workplace parties, rights for workers, establishes procedures for dealing with workplace hazards…it provides for enforcement of laws where compliance has not been achieved voluntarily. The continued improvement of such a policy is important as workplace health and safety procedures are important for the wellbeing of the employees given that human loss is immeasurable and intolerable.”
She pointed out that looking after health and safety makes good business sense as workplaces that neglect health and safety risks prosecution, may lose staff, and may face increased costs and reduced profitability due to more accidents and downtime.
“Therefore, we all have a duty. We all have a moral responsibility towards employees’ protection which can only be achieved through such policies…policies which devote resources to deliberating and strategising about safety precautions.”
Meanwhile, representative of the Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry (CAGI), Earl Morris pointed out that health and safety measures are not expensive and that contrary to public opinion, systematically applying well-planned safety and health measures have proven to give good returns on investments at the company level.
“Apart from reducing costs…and related to absenteeism, accident and disease reduction, Occupational Safety and Health measures help to improve a companies’ image, their position in the labour market and customers’ appreciation. Academic research also shows that high-quality working conditions that trigger job satisfaction may indirectly influence workers’ health and improve job satisfaction over time,” Morris said.
He explained that while there is no statistical evidence that economies with poor safety and health measures are more competitive, research by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggests that countries where working conditions are among the poorest have greatly reduced competitiveness.

“This Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) policy is contributing towards ILO’s objective to achieving decent work. A healthy workforce and a safe working environment are the ideal combining factors that will contribute towards higher output and sustain development. Therefore, adopting a safe and healthy approach at work create benefits for workers, employers, as well as the country.”
According to Morris, Guyana must continue to invest in the quality of work, since all workers have the right to work in decent, safe and healthy work environments.
“The national OHS policy is being launched at a time when our country is embarking a new frontier, the oil and gas as well as the green industry. Our safety and health measures are definitely going to be tested. This OHS policy is, therefore, timely since it places obligations on various stakeholders in managing those challenges from the traditional industries as well as the newer ones as we face them.”
Similar sentiments were made by General Secretary of the Federation of Independent Trades Union of Guyana (FITUG), Dawchan Nagar, who pointed out that considering the changes that have taken place in the country and also changes that are occurring presently, there must be continuous consideration of development at the local, regional and international levels.
“National development and advancement have changed our outlook on circumstances since the Occupational Health and Safety Act came into being. For instance, the oil and gas…industry was absent from our national landscape at that time. The construction industry since then has adopted new methods and is reaching new heights, literally and figuratively. Those realities among several others have emerged over the years and have also brought focus and the necessity of Occupational Safety and Health giving the occupational risks that our workers are facing in the jobs of 2019.” (Kristen Macklingam)