Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan. (FP)

Employers and employees are equally being called upon to do what is required to ensure the safety and health of their workplaces.

The appeal came today from Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, during a church service at the James Street Methodist Church, The City.  It marked the start of Occupational Safety and Health Week (OSH) 2021, July 11 to 16.

Wishing all a productive, safe, healthy and blessed OSH Week 2021, he said: “Let us as policy makers, employers and workers commit to doing, not just our best, but everything that is required to provide and to maintain a safe and healthy workplace for the people who operate within the workplace.”

Recalling that James Street Methodist Church was the resting place of our lone female National Hero, The Right Excellent Sarah Ann Gill, the Labour Minister reminded congregants that she worked to provide a safe haven for persons who were enslaved or otherwise oppressed, and while her focus was on forced labour, today, workers had greater choices.

He noted, however, that situations still exist where the rights of workers and their safety and health at work are “really not taken as seriously as they ought to be taken”.

And, Mr. Jordan added: “In the area of Occupational Safety and Health, in an area where we are speaking about ensuring that workers do not suffer ill health or injury or even death, employers and workers must do what is required. Now more than ever in our pandemic world, we must do what is required and work hard to ensure the safety and health of workers and to make sure we have safe and healthy work places.”

While acknowledging that traditional issues like slips and falls, trip hazards, wet floor signs and the provision of personal protective equipment still remained, he said the COVID-19 pandemic had expanded the focus. 

He pointed out that the focus must also be placed on those areas where, although the effects are less visible, they can similarly compromise a worker’s safety, health and welfare in the workplace.

(Stock Photo)

Outlining these as issues related to indoor air quality, wellness, mental health, workplace based violence and harassment, the Labour Minister said: “We must recognise and we must appreciate that sound organisation and sound management of occupational safety and health is beneficial to the worker, but it is also beneficial to the organisation and by extension to families, communities and ultimately to our country.

“Even with some workers participating in flexible work arrangements, indoor air quality continues to be an area of concern in workplaces. Issues range from the effects of reoccupying spaces that were closed for an extended period to reduced temperatures in workspaces because there are fewer persons in those spaces, to increased particulates in the environment due to irregular cleaning of less used areas.  Some of these are not issues that we thought about before.”

He further emphasised that the ability to refer to standards was important for employers in undertaking the role of ensuring workplace conditions are safe and healthy and that the workplace does not contribute to ill health or illness on the part of those who come to it.

OSH Week 2021 will be observed under the theme A Safe Workplace: Now More Than Ever.  The Labour Department, in conjunction with the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, will host a number of virtual webinars tailored to issues highlighted by the Minister. 

These include: Indoor Air Quality, Preventing Violence and Harassment at Work, the National Workplace Wellness Policy and Practical Tips for Safety Committees, including considerations for remote work and an understanding of the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister Jordan will address the official opening ceremony of these webinars tomorrow, Monday, July 12, at 9:00 a.m. Interested persons may register by clicking here.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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