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Jamaicans Urged to Treat Occupational Safety with Importance

Mrs. Janice Green, president of the Jamaica Occupational Health Safety Professions Association (JOHSPA), has urged Jamaicans to treat occupational safety with great importance, noting that employers and employees should be proactive about issues, which impact health and safety in the work place.

Mrs. Green made that observation on April 28 as Jamaica joined the rest of the world to celebrate “World Day for Safety and Health at Work”.  The day was celebrated under the theme “Safety and Health and the Future of Work.”

“Jamaica is one of the signatories to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Health and Safety, however, we do not treat it with the importance it deserves,” Mrs. Green stated. “The OSH Bill is still in the queue before Parliament after more than two decades, waiting to be passed into law.

Mrs Green, who is also the Occupational Safety and Health Officer at The Jamaica National Group, stated that in recent times, Jamaicans have witnessed discussions on the Jamaica Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) Bill, which started with written submissions from members of the public to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament and then oral presentations on these submissions.

“In January JOHSPA among other entities made its presentation in Parliament to add value to the debate.  JOHSPA’s 20 point submission, if incorporated by the Parliamentary Committee in the OSH Act, will no doubt impact the future of work and also how health and safety professionals execute their roles. Therefore, we are pleading that this Bill be placed on the front burner, so that that the health of workers can be better protected,” she implored.

Mrs. Green said that, although the OSH Act was not yet been passed, there were other pieces of legislation, which impacts workers health and safety e.g. the Public Health Act; Factories Act and Pesticides Control Act, to name a few therefore, more persons need to be proactive in implementing those safety measures in the relevant  Acts.

“It is commendable that some business operators in other economic sectors of Jamaica, although they are not governed by the Factories Act of Jamaica, or other health and safety legislations, over the years have been proactive in putting people, policies, system and procedures in place, to protect workers and the employers. However, the proactive approach of these companies should not negate the responsibility of the government to pass the Occupational Safety & Health Act.”

She pointed out that her employer, The Jamaica National Group, has also been proactive in improving occupational health and safety among staff members.

“In 2019 for instance, the Jamaica National Group introduced a mobile ramp at the Knutsford MoneyShop to facilitate the use of wheelchairs. This was done as part of efforts to protect the rights of the physically challenged  The organisation is also constantly working to improve the health and safety of its employees as it has an active Occupational Safety & Health Committee,” she said.

Mr. G. Andre Latty, Executive, People and Culture, Group Human Resource Development at the JN Group said occupational health and safety was important because of its positive potential impact on employees and the organisation.

“It enhances the reputation of the organization as a Winning Workplace when its employees can come to work in a safe work environment,” stated Mr. Latty. “Also, from the employees’ perspective, it reduces the possibility of injuries, stress and occupational hazards at work.

Apart from the health & safety legislation, Mrs. Green said that both employers and employees need to play their part in maintaining occupational health and safety in the workplace.

“Furthermore, the employer has a duty to uphold the Labour Relations Code, which speaks to the safety and treatment of employees,” she explained.  “In addition, employees also have the right to work in a clean, safe and healthy environment,” she maintained.

“They could actually refuse to work until those conditions are met”.  On the other hand, the worker has a responsibility to adhere to the health & safety policies and procedures that their employer has put in place. Both parties therefore have a role to play to ensure workplace health and safety standards are established and observed.”

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