??Participants in the ??World Day for Safety and Health at Work Seminar, held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. (G. Brewster/BGIS)

Legislation strengthening Occupational Safety and Health clearly identifies who is responsible for safety and health at the workplace and mandates that organisations must implement safety policies, safety committees or delegates, and effectively communicate safety precautions and procedures to staff.

This was emphasised by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, as she addressed a seminar this morning to commemorate World Day for Safety and Health at Work on the topic: The Importance of Legislation in ensuring Safe, Healthy and Decent Work in a move towards a Sustainable Green Economy.?? It was hosted by REA EnviroHealth International at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.????

The Safety and Health at Work (ShaW) Act may not yet be proclaimed, but it has been passed, and government has been using it as the standard by which to address occupational safety and health in all businesses.

Minister Byer Suckoo, said that under the legislation, the onus is on the employer to identify hazards and to put appropriate measures in place to control them, but further pointed out "that properly conducted risk assessments enhance the employer’s ability to discharge his or her legal responsibilities".

The Labour Minister noted that employers were required to provide and maintain a safe system of work; safe tools and equipment; safe arrangements for the use, handling and storage of articles and substances, and adequate instruction and training.

Moreover, the SHaW Act requires that safety and health information, as it relates to hazards, is provided in a manner that it is easily understandable to all workers.

"Safety manuals, material safety data sheets, safety signage and symbols have to be presented in a simple and easily assimilated manner," she said, further stressing that "Employers would need to ensure that adequate orientation and training is provided for new entrants into the workforce and when new equipment is introduced."

Dr. Byer Suckoo warned employees not to be complacent because they too, were responsible for safety and health at the workplace under the legislation.??

??"Employees have a legal duty to take reasonable care of their own safety and that of others, to report his or her employer’s unsafe conditions, or breaches of the Act, and to use equipment and personal protective equipment like boots, helmets and goggles correctly, and not abandon gear because they feel cumbersome and seem to inhibit the performance of the task. The legal framework encourages employees to be engaged, and take active interest in their own safety and that of others," she emphasised.

Safety committees, polices and consultations with staff on safety and health issues were also critical components mandated by the SHaW Act.?? The Labour Minister explained that the Act stipulated that once an organisation had more than 25 persons on staff, it was compulsory for that company to establish a safety committee.?? She added that according to the Act, business places with less than 25 persons employed were obligated to have safety delegates.

"Effective safety and health committees find solutions to problems that cause workplace accidents, illnesses and injuries," she underscored.

The Labour Minister continued: "Safety policies and programs have to be an integral part of the management function. Again, the new legislation encourages businesses to do this.?? Employers will be required to develop and maintain safety policies. Such safety policies must have the endorsement of the senior management, and the roles and responsibilities of each individual within the enterprise with regard to safety and health, must be clearly outlined and communicated."

She also outlined that the SHaW Act recognised that a safety policy should not be a static document, but instead, reflect transforming technologies, changing environments and increased scientific knowledge exerted on the identification and evaluation of workplace hazards.


Author: Shamkoe Pil??

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