OSHB meets minister, calls for stricter adherence to occupational health and safety regulations
Minister for Employment and Social Affairs Patricia Francourt yesterday afforded her support for the work and primary focus of members of the Occupational Health and Safety Board to modernise the Occupational Health and Safety Decree, dating back to 1978.
It was in a meeting with members of the board yesterday afternoon at the minister’s conference room at Independence House that Occupational Health and Safety Board (OHSB) chairperson and Ministry of Health official Vanessa Lesperance presented to Minister Francourt the work of the board since inception, and their primary concerns relating to employee well-being and health and safety within the workplace.
Facilitating a presentation, Dr Lesperance detailed the findings of a survey of 40 participants, and the internal processes within such organisations with regards to occupational health and safety. From the group of 40 participants, comprising seven employers, three employees, and 21 health and safety officers, 82.5 percent of whom are employed in organisations of over 50 workers, it was concluded that the number of occupational accidents reported are still low, with underreporting in high-risk sectors such as construction.
The survey was conducted following the publication of the data for 2019, with the aim of discovering participants’ level of knowledge of the requirements of the OSHD for accident or injury reporting, to assess the extent of under-reporting and determine the reasons for under-reporting.
“Accidents in the workplace should be prevented. Accidents lead to disability and means persons cannot work, resulting in decreased productivity. Safety in the workplace is very important, as it impacts the whole workforce,” Dr Lesperance noted.
Key findings were that participants were not necessarily aware of the legal requirements to report and the reporting procedures in place with the ministry. Although all the employers had an internal reporting system within their organisation, and, although 95 percent have a system to record and mitigate accidents or injuries, most times, the accident is not further reported to the ministry as per the provisions of the OHSD.
Board members proposed that there is a significant gap on the domestic labour market for trained and qualified health and safety personnel, and that the majority of the time, both employers and employees are not aware of the legal requirements, nor their rights. It was also recommended that workplaces should conduct investigations after accidents and implement preventive measures, making other propositions.
In turn, the minister proposed that efforts be stepped up in educating and sensitising both employers and employees on workers’ rights, saying it is paramount that they are empowered to know their rights, and for workplaces to be more accountable, in the new climate.
“Making sure organisations are adhering to what you are saying is key. Promoting the wellbeing of workers. Safety is good for all our businesses and it is the right thing to do to ensure that staff are safe” Minister Francourt stated. In addition to the survey findings, the board members conveyed to the minister their concerns with regards to the OHSD, which needs to be modernised at the soonest, they asserted. Presently as is, the decree is not up to par with international standards, and permits certain activities which are now considered not safe, such as the acceptable level of noise within the workplace.
Work is due to start on reviewing the decree, and related sub regulations in the near future. It is also hoped that the decree will be converted into an act, by seeking the President to repeal the existing decree. A newly drafted bill can then be tabled to the Cabinet and National Assembly for approval, and assent by the President.
The board comprises nine members‒ representatives from government, private sector, employees and employers. Members are presently meeting every couple of months, and are actively pushing for the promotion of safe workplaces, good work practices among employers and employees, and by promoting a culture of safety among the general population.