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Safety committees necessary

Participants in today’s safety workshop.

Participants in today’s safety workshop.

Enhanced productivity and competitiveness should not compromise social dialogue between the employer and employee.

As a result, employers must recognise that they have a critical role to play in the safety and health process within the workplace.

This is the assertion of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Andrew Cox. He made these remarks while speaking to Human Resource Managers today at the Productivity Council’s Week of Excellence 2013, at the Barbados Workers Union, Solidarity House.

Stating that social dialogue builds trust, productivity and promotes job creation, Cox pointed out that an example of social dialogue at the enterprise level is safety committees, which are required under the Safety and Health at Work Act.

“[These committees] bring employers and employees together to find solutions to the common challenges they face. It enables employers to better discharge their moral duties to ensure safe and healthy workplaces. In turn, safe and healthy workplaces foster an environment where employees can give of their best,” he said, adding that dialogue helped to facilitate a consensus for policies.

Cox noted that the SHaW Act placed certain non-delegable duties on the employer, and stressed that worker consultation and involvement should not diminish the role of the employers or remove their right to manage.

“Apart from risk assessments and the development of safety and health policies, these duties include the provision and maintenance of safe workplaces; safe systems of work; safe arrangements for storage, transport and use of materials within the workplace; and adequate welfare facilities. It is also the employer’s responsibility that the workplace meets prescribed ergonomics standards,” he outlined.

The permanent secretary added that the benefits of employer-employee consultation in the form of safety committees were underscored in the findings of a United Kingdom workplace survey which noted that “joint consulting committees significantly reduce workplace injuries relative to those in situations where the management alone determines safety and health”.

Emphasising that employee participation was critical since workers have first-hand experiences of the hazards in the workplace, he reasoned that the employees also were a crucial resource to identifying hazards and developing effective control measures.

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