Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, has issued a call for both businesses and householders to exercise care and to employ the correct procedures when using chemicals.

She made these comments as she addressed the REA Envirohealth???s Safety and Health in the Use of Chemicals at Work Seminar, held today at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

The event was convened in commemoration of the ILO World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which will be observed on April 28.

Dr. Byer Suckoo advised that persons in all relevant industries should be aware of the risks associated with chemical exposure, take symptoms seriously and wear the proper corrective gear and appropriate clothing at all times.?????From the construction and agricultural sector to the domestic and office setting, and even the hair and nail salons, workers come into contact with chemicals as a result of the tasks they are expected to perform,??? she said.

Emphasising the need to maintain workplace safety and health across Barbados, she said that we should ?????? all commit to employing preventative and protective measures, such as proper ventilation [in establishments]????????I think of the lady who does nails in a small room???with no windows and she???s breathing in the acrylic powders and the glues and the gels; or the one that does hair in the small salon [with] the glues and chemicals.???

She said that other measures such as medical surveillance, use of protective equipment and workers??? training to make safety and health a mainstay in the workplace were being promoted by her ministry.

Expanding on the importance of medical surveillance and taking note of symptoms such as coughing, rashes, itching and other signs of irritants, Dr. Byer Suckoo said: ???Not all of the manifestations are acute. Some chemicals, because of their long latency periods, may not manifest the telltale symptoms until many years later??? [These include] asthma, malignant growths, tumours, [and] cancers,??? she said.

She added that with some symptoms taking as long as 10 to 15 years to be detected, it was difficult to determine the extent of health effects related to chemical exposure. The Minister also admonished those who did not take complaints about environmental concerns seriously.

???Too often it is assumed that because only one member of staff claims to be negatively affected by a substance, that he or she is being a troublemaker or is miserable???However, we must acknowledge that that may be an early warning sign,??? the Labour Minister asserted, stressing that the Safety and Health at Work Act highlighted the responsibilities of both employers and employees to report and investigate any and all occurrences.

The Minister also addressed this nation???s continued efforts to meet international standards in safety and health, with relevance to management of chemicals, and was deemed one of the leaders in the region in this regard. ??In addition, the Ministry is seeking to implement the Barbados Safety and Health Management System, to encourage the adoption of such measures in the workplace and award businesses for taking the initiative in creating safer environments for workers.

The Minister disclosed that there were also plans to establish National Safety Awards, and noted that invitations would be issued shortly for interested companies to enter the programme. The theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work this year is Safety and Health in the Use of Chemicals at Work.

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