An initiative by the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Third Sector to ensure safety and health standards remain paramount on the agenda of organisations is once again being promoted to all workplaces across the island.
Safety and Health Officer with the Labour Department, Errol Goodridge, in a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), highlighted the benefits to be gained from the initiative, known as the ACTION Programme, that has been with the department for some time. He also shared how having safety consultations with employees can facilitate the process.
Mr. Goodridge revealed that the ACTION Programme was developed by the Labour Department to assist companies to manage issues of safety and health. He further stated that it represented “a commitment to improving our nation”, and was aimed at awarding those who achieve high standards, while doing so.
“ACTION”, as it is also referred to, is a voluntary programme aimed at assisting a workplace of any size to effectively and efficiently manage safety, health and welfare, whether that organisation wants to reduce workplace accidents; achieve local recognition as a business with high safety and health standards, or improve compliance with legislation.
Elaborating on what happens when an organisation volunteers, the Safety and Health Officer said once a company showed interest, contact would be made by the Labour Department and that business would then be asked to undertake a self-assessment of “where they are at that time, with regard to managing the safety and health issues in their work”.
“We send them a questionnaire, which enables them to go through that process. Once they return that questionnaire to us, we then go to their company and do an audit of it. That audit would involve speaking to workers and management; doing a walkthrough; looking at documents; looking to see how well their Safety and Health Committee is functioning”.
The ACTION Programme is a voluntary programme aimed at assisting a workplace of any size to effectively and efficiently manage safety, health and welfare, whether that organisation wants to reduce workplace accidents; achieve local recognition as a business with high safety and health standards, or improve compliance with legislation.
“Based on that, we then give them guidance as to where there are gaps; what they need to do to achieve exemplary standards, with regard to the management of safety and health in their workplaces. We work with them, by providing that guidance to them,” he shared.
He also noted that once a company achieved certain standards, it would also receive awards – bronze, silver, gold or platinum. Outlining how this award system works, Mr. Goodridge said: “Each stage recommends an increase or improvement in terms of their standards. So, even if they don’t meet the bronze level, we still work with them to help them to achieve that and help them to move progressively from bronze to silver to gold to platinum. And that is part of the programme, helping them and encouraging and promoting them. Helping them to manage their safety and health hazards or risks in their workplaces.”
The official, who also addressed the importance of Safety and Health Committees in organisations, pointed out that under the Safety and Health at Work Act, these were required if an organisation employed 25 or more people.
“Now, if you have less than 25 employees, and it’s not practical to have a Safety and Health Committee, you’re still required to consult with your employees including with regard to new measures to improve their safety and health because that’s the only way you can do that. Having that dialogue with your workers, that’s the only way you can achieve high standards of safety and health.
“And, the Safety and Health Committee is a vehicle to do that. But if you don’t have 25 or more, it can still operate where you assign a delegate within your workplace. A safety delegate is a person who is a focal point for safety and health, and who would act as the liaison between management and staff with regard to safety and health. In fact, if you are small, you can have that one-to-one discussion with your staff, say you have three or four employees,” he explained.
Urging companies to participate in the voluntary programme, Mr. Goodridge said those seeking further information should call the Labour Department at 535-1523 or 535-1524.
Alternatively, they may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, to which an officer from the Labour Department would respond.