Protecting workers

Minister of Labour Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo

The health and safety of thousands of workers occupied in all economic spheres across Barbados, will be formally protected from January 1, next year.

Minister of Labour Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo made the announcement this afternoon at a news conference at the Labour Department when she revealed that the Safety and Health at Work Act, which was passed in Parliament in 2005, would now be proclaimed on or before January 1, 2013.

Dr. Byer-Suckoo was at the same time, launching a zero to 100 days sensitisation and promotional campaign leading up to the proclamation date.

“The purpose of our campaign is to sensitise employers and employees of the safety and health at work requirements, of their duties and obligations and the benefits to be derived from compliance to the provisions of the act. Over the last seven years since this legislation was enacted in 2005 in Parliament, the Labour Department has vigorously enhanced its educational programmes in the public and private sectors,” pointed out the Government Minister.

She said, too, there had been an increase in the number of requests for training in the requirements of the Safety and Health at Work Act and safety and health in general.

At the same time, the Cabinet Minister added, there has been a concomitant increase in the knowledge and competence of workers in the area of occupational safety and health, thus raising the national profile of this discipline.

She noted that the Labour Department had also produced a number of materials designed to aid employers and employees in understanding their news roles and responsibilities under the new act.

This legislation, which replaces the age-old Factories Act, will given the Safety Officers greater powers in enforcing its provisions and also allows them to enter and inspect any place of business including schools.

The Factories Act was limited to such places as manufacturing and processing. But Labour Minister Byer- Suckoo explained that the Safety and Health at Work Act covered the entire island.

In further explaining the provisions, Chief Labour Officer, Vincent Burnett said “the Health and Safety Officers will now be able to deal with things immediately at the work place if it is a safety and health hazard.”

Burnett said there would also be a need for additional workers in the Labour Department to efficiently and effectively administer this legislation in addition to related workplace legislation which were pending.

Earlier, Minister Byer-Suckoo identified one of the main reasons which contributed to the delay in proclaiming the Act, which under went some amendments since being approved in 2005, to make it more relevant to current times.

The lack of proper accommodation for public officers and safety conditions within Government buildings were of particular concern.

“That was one issue that effected the proclamation of the Safety and Health at Work Act. And last year the Cabinet directed that an audit be conducted to access the working conditions of public officers. This was seen as an important step towards the proclamation of the Safety and Health at Work Act,” Byer-Suckoo asserted.

She disclosed that the audit was successfully completed by officers of the Labour Department with support from the Environmental Health Officers in the Ministry of Health.

“While the final report on the audit has not yet been completed and we anticipate having that next month or within the next few weeks, we are sufficiently confident, that the improved conditions of general government agencies… of several government agencies now housed at the Baobab Towers and those that soon will be located at the Omni Towers building, which is also here in Warrens, that will address many of the concerns that we’ve had,” she declared. (EJ)

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