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Not if, but how

Barbadians should not be questioning if they can afford to invest in occupational health and safety, but “How could you afford not to?”

This was the sentiment shared by the speakers at this morning’s launch of OSH Week 2013, Zero in on Safety, as all parties agreed that OSH offered multiple, tangible benefits to employees and employers alike.

Chief Labour Officer, Vincent Burnett, observed that taking a positive OSH approach would result in a myriad of benefits for business, such as improved productivity, higher staff morale, lower insurance premiums and improved quality of life.

He noted that achieving this goal would require active participation from all those affected and involved. The CLO quoted former Director General of the International Labour Organisation, Juan Somavia, as stating:

“Successfully building a strong, preventive safety and health culture will depend on strong commitment, collaboration and concerted effort from government, employers, workers and all stakeholders; it cannot be the sole preserve of experts…

“The practice of safety and health cannot be purely an academic exercise, but it has to consider the lives of real people that are involved, [and] people who have families and friends.”

Noting that this year had already marked momentous changes in labour legislation, most notably the proclamation of the Safety and Health at Work Act and the Employment Rights Act, Burnett observed that greater attention was now being given to the wellbeing of workers, which went beyond their physical health.

“The importance of the mental wellbeing of workers has been recognised at the highest levels … here in Barbados, employers are concerned about absenteeism and productivity and it has been suggested that the mental welfare of employees could be a contributor to this problem, whether it is created within or outside the workplace,” he said.

Chairman for the National Advisory Committee on Safety and Health, Peter Earle echoed this sentiment and observed that any conscientious business owner would want to provide a safe work environment.

He observed that not doing so would lead to repercussions, not only for the safety and health of workers, but the business itself and determined that investing in safety management systems and improving standards could not only save, but create, revenue.

“Health and safety matters … can determine whether or not a tender is awarded… Accidents and injuries or the enforcement of action by factory inspectors are bad news for business, and this is what makes them uncompetitive … in difficult economic times, when the options for improving the bottom line through increased sales and turnover can be very limited, investing in loss control becomes even more important,” he asserted.

General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Union and Staff Associations of Barbados, Denis De Peiza, agreed and assured that his organisation remained committed to being actively involved in using OSH to make Barbados workplaces better.

Barbados Employers Confederation Executive Director, Anthony Walcott, declared: “As organisations move to formalise their safety plans their performance targets in the areas of accidents, injuries, near misses and lost time incidents should be established at zero. Anything higher is unacceptable. All accidents are avoidable.”

The OSH Week seminars, which will address themes such as “Safety in Mobile Workplaces” and “The Recognition and Control of Respiratory Diseases”, will end on Thursday.

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