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The Absence of a Jamaica OSH Act

SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2018, will be commemorated in Jamaica, regionally, and globally, as: World Day for Safety and Health at Work (Safe Day), under the theme, ‘Generation Safe and Healthy.’

Janice Green, president of the Jamaica Occupational Health Professions Association (JOHSPA), recently announced that activities relating to the day will highlight a joint campaign to lobby for the passage of the Occupation Safety and Health (OSH) Act in Parliament; and support World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL), to improve the safety and health of workers; as well as end child labour.

Green, occupational safety and health officer at The Jamaica National Group, was elected president of JOHSPA on February 13. The organisation, which promotes safety, health and well-being in the workplace, was founded in 2008 and is currently lobbying the Government to pass the Jamaica Safety and Health Bill, which has been tabled in Parliament and debate under way in the House of Representatives.

She noted that despite Jamaica being a signatory to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Health and Safety, and reaffirmed its commitment to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals, the Jamaica Occupational Safety and Health Bill is yet to be passed.

“Why is the OSH Bill still in the queue after more than 20 years, waiting to be passed into law?” she asked. And pointed out that, “A holistic legislation, such as the OSH Act, would strengthen the collaboration between relevant government ministries and agencies to gather data to influence development.”

The JOHSPA president also stated that, “Data currently being collected by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, will certainly assist Jamaica to determine the vulnerability of young workers to health and safety risks, given their physical and psychological stage of development.”

And she drew attention to the United Nation’s Children

Fund’s (UNICEF) statement on child labour, which maintained that, “Child labour is any form of paid and unpaid work performed by children that is harmful or dangerous, causes a child to miss educational opportunities and not to enjoy childhood.”

Harmful or Dangerous

At the same time, she noted that not all forms of work performed by children are considered harmful or dangerous. “Home chores, holiday jobs, or part-time work are activities which help children to build their self-esteem and influence positive growth.”

Green welcomed the fact that, “The data being collected by the Child Protection and Family Service Agency, in concert with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, is slated to create a solid platform, on which the quality of social services provided to address vulnerable children and their families will improve over time and eliminate the prevalence of child labour.

She also referred to ILO statistics which state that: Some 541 million young workers, 15-24 years old, including 37 million children in hazardous child labour, account for more than 15 per cent of the world’s labour force. They suffer up to a 40 per cent higher rate of non-fatal occupational injuries than adult workers older than 25.

The JOHSPA president commended Government’s aim to achieve the UN goals related to health, education and the eradication of poverty; and called for more attention to eliminate child labour, noting that jobs creation should be pursued by persons who have attained the legal age to work, as is enshrined in the Jamaican constitution.

“As JOHSPA commemorates World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28, we reaffirm our commitment to promote a culture of decent work and safety in Jamaica,” Green stated.

She also declared that, “JOHSPA will play its part in lobbying the Government, along with health and safety agencies, to improve the health and safety status in the workplace.”

The JOHSPA president repeated the call on the Government to “move forward on the debate of the OSH Bill for passage into law during the current parliamentary session”.

Contributed by the Jamaica Gleaner

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