Barbadian employees are becoming increasingly concerned about their safety and health on the job, particularly as it relates to indoor air quality, ergonomics and fire prevention.
This observation was made by Senior Safety and Health Officer, in the Occupational Safety and Health Section, Labour Department, Claudette Hope-Greenidge, who pointed out that the tendency of modern architects to design enclosed buildings which relied on artificial cooling, could contribute to poor indoor air quality.
In addition, she suggested, some businesses were not paying enough attention to the maintenance of the air conditioning systems nor the installation of the appropriate type of units.
Ms. Hope-Greenidge’s comments come as Barbados prepares to join the rest of the world in celebrating World Safety and Health Day on Monday, April 28.
“The sources of such concerns are wide and varied, so we need not put it down to air conditioning units only. It could be the nature of the work activity, or the lack of a proper cleaning regime. Things of that nature also contribute to indoor quality air problems,” she explained.
The Occupational Safety and Health Unit of the Labour Department works in collaboration with employers, employees and their representatives for the attainment and maintenance of desirable standards of occupational safety and health practice in Barbados. Occupational Safety and Health is focused on promoting the highest degree of social, physical and mental well-being for workers.
That unit comprises a team of nine Safety and Health Officers, a Senior Safety and Health Officer and support staff. In addition to handling general safety and health matters, the team possesses specialist skills in areas such as Occupational Hygiene, Work Design and Ergonomics.
In the area of Work Design and Ergonomics, Ms Hope-Greenidge also expressed concern that companies tended to purchase equipment such as computers, without any regard to their impact on the working environment.
“You find normally that the equipment comes with little or no thought as to where you are going to place them, how you are going to position them or how persons are going to be trained with regard to their posture and so on,” she said.
The construction sector has also been presenting some challenges for the Occupational Safety and Health Unit.
“[This is] on account of the transient nature of the workforce, where persons move from site to site and are not necessarily taking advantage of the safety and health training that is being afforded them by some of the players in the industry,” Ms. Hope-Greenidge said.
She also took the opportunity to explain the standard practice or protocol which employees should follow when seeking to redress any safety and health issues in the workplace.
Initially, she said, employees should raise any problem with the immediate supervisor. If there is little or no response, then it should be taken through the chain of command at the workplace.
“That’s the first thing we ask. Have you tried to have this matter resolved at the domestic level, the workplace level? If they have exhausted all possibilities, they should then call or visit the Labour Department to outline their concerns,” Ms. Hope-Greenidge pointed out.
She added that the Labour Department would then seek dialogue with the employer or the supervisor, who could stand in place of the employer.
“Employer” does not necessarily refer to the person who owns the business, but could also mean the manager who the employee reports to.
“The way we handle the matter, to some extent, depends on its nature. If it is something that requires adjustment to the workplace, well the supervisor may hardly be able to do that, so then you would really need to get the involvement of top management,” she explained.
The Senior Safety and Health Officer noted that the growing interest in safety and health matters could be attributed to the easy access with which persons could gather information on the subject via the internet and available literature. In addition, she said discussions on safety and health were gaining prominence in both employer and employee groupings.
Ms. Hope- Greenidge also encouraged more employees to make use of the services of the Occupational Safety and Health Section, noting that it was within their rights to do so.
“The services are utilised to a great extent by employers, moreso than it is by employees, and that may be for the simple reason that employers are the ones who have the ultimate responsibility to make sure that the workplace is running efficiently…
Employees, on the other hand, tend to think that they are not empowered to seek advice on their own behalf. That is probably something that needs to be promoted a bit more but generally the services of the Occupational Safety and Health Unit are utilised…” she pointed out.