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Safety and Health and the future of work -collaboration through social dialogue

Today, April 28, is being celebrated as World Day for Safety and Health at Work.  The Jamaica Occupational Health & Safety Professionals Association (JOHSPA) joins the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the rest of the world in the celebration of World SafeDay.

“World Safe Day on 28 April 2019 will only be the beginning of worldwide events and activities to continue throughout the rest of the year, around the theme of safety and health and the future of work, celebrating and building on the wealth of knowledge and action accumulated over 100 years as we get ready to face and appreciate the changes brought forward by the future of work we want”, reads the official statement on the ILO website.

In recent times, Jamaicans have witnessed many movements of change, specifically in discussions on the Jamaica Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) Bill.  In December 2018, the Joint Select Committee of Parliament invited written submissions from the public on the Bill. Since January 2019, oral presentations have been taking place in Parliament to add value to the debate.On January 15, 2019 the Jamaica Occupational Safety & Health Professionals Association, among other private sector groups, made its presentation on the OSH Bill. The incorporation of JOHSPA’s 20 point submission, if incorporated by the Parliamentary Committee in the OSH Act, will no doubt impact the future of work of how health and safety professionals carry out their roles.

Traditionally, it was the practice that activities of health and safety would have resided solely with the Human Resources or Engineering Department or with an individual such as the Occupational Health & Safety Professional employed to the company.  This is no longer the norm. The increased use of social dialogue has empowered actors in the work of work to participate in activities that affect their wellbeing. The approach of social dialogue is embraced in other OSH Acts of other countries thus making it necessary for the establishment of joint occupational safety and health committees at work.  The members of the committee, through collaborative efforts with top management and trade unions, where applicable, have achieved major changes in work arrangements and improvement in working conditions e.g. a Health & Safety Policy for the workplace with accompanying procedures.

Despite Jamaica not yet having an Occupational Safety and Health Act, there are other legislations that govern  matters of health and safety, specifically in factories and industrial sectors such as mining and fisheries, to name a few.  It must be noted and commended that some business operators in other economic sectors of Jamaica, though not governed by the Factories Act of Jamaica or other health and safety legislations, have over the years been proactive to have people, policies, systems and procedures in place to protect workers and the employers. The proactive approach of these companies should not negate the responsibility of the Government of Jamaica to pass the Occupational Safety & Health Act.

Through the efforts of the ILO over the last century of working at improving occupational safety and health and promoting safe and healthy working environments, many of its member state countries have either passed legislations on health & safety or have improved existing legislations. The continuing influence of the ILO in this area has caused many workers in developing countries, such as Jamaica, to increase pressure on their Governments to have an OSH Act in place. An OSH Act protects workers in all economic sectors which also includes the Government itself as an employer.

The future of workplace safety, therefore, lies in the hands of the workers. As such, on this day to commemorate World Day for Safety, I encourage more workers to become more active and participate in shaping the future of their world of work. I also encourage heads of companies, to be mindful of their responsibilities, to set the tone and shape the culture of safety for the organizations they lead.  They must put in place the people, policies and measures to protect the health and safety of the workers. 

On January 22, 2019, the ILO launched its report on the Global Commission on the Future ofWork. Co- Chairperson of the Commission, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, in his address said, “the Commission has been clear that people and the work that they do must be at the centre of the economic and social policy and business practice.” He went on to say that “the Commission “remains only too aware that the pathway to the future of the world of work does not follow a straight line”. However the future of the world of work leads straight to the workers who, through social dialogue, can influence the pathway of policies and legislations that will ultimately affect their wellbeing.

With Jamaica being a signatory to the ILO conventions on health and safety, JOHSPA remains hopeful that Jamaican Parliament will now seize the opportunity presented through the use of social dialogue to purposefully debate the OSH Bill and pass the Jamaica OSH Act. By so doing, the Government would have signed and sealed its commitment to ensuring decent work and the continued promotion of health and safety for all workers in the various economic sectors in Jamaica.

Janice Green (Mrs.)
President
Jamaica Occupational Health & Safely Professionals Association

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