Director, Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Department in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Marlon Mahon.
Photo: Contributed

Director of the Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) Department in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Marlon Mahon, says every organisation should have in place an effective OSH Management System.

The OSH Policy, which guides the management system, outlines the key principles and objectives that an organisation has committed to in maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.

Such a Policy should be governed by the national laws and the OSH programmes and collective agreements.

Recently, World Day for Safety and Health at Work was observed globally under the theme ‘Anticipate, Prepare and Respond to crises: Invest now in Resilient OSH management systems’.

Mr. Mahon points out that since 2003, the Day is observed in April annually, to stress the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally.

“It brings into focus safety and health issues in the workplace that are of global significance, and also to promote and create a culture of safety to address these issues,” he says.

“Occupational Safety and Health should not be seen as a response to hazards in the workplace or when a crisis happens; it should be a proactive approach to managing safety and health in the workplace,” Mr. Mahon adds.

He points out that the significance of this year’s theme is to highlight the importance of OSH Management Systems in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic in workplaces.

According to Mr. Mahon, as the pandemic continues to negatively impact every nation, including Jamaica, it goes without saying that the pandemic has radically transformed every aspect of how “we work to include diverse work arrangements”.

Invariably, these new work arrangements have created increased occupational safety and health risks; therefore, Mr. Mahon is encouraging organisations to contact the Ministry for assistance in developing their OSH Management Systems.

“Many organisations may not be aware of what constitutes an OSH Management System, which is a technical term, and Jamaican workplaces are not necessarily familiar with it, given the fact that these systems normally permeate developed countries,” he says.

It is within this context that the OSH Department of the Ministry has developed several brochures and e-posters to provide critical information to assist organisations in creating a robust OSH Management System.

The six elements of the OSH Management System roadmap establish pro-activeness, which ensures that organisations have a system in place where tasks, roles and responsibilities are clearly identified and communicated to both workers and employers.

One of the most critical elements is Management Leadership and Employee Participation, which is critical for the success of any system in place.

“We recommend that organisations formalise the process of interaction between management and employees through an Occupational Safety and Health policy which outlines the key objectives and principles that the organisation will be committed to, to ensure that there is a safe and healthy workplace,” Mr. Mahon says.

This is followed by Workplace analysis, which means inspections are done routinely, and workers are trained in hazard identification, which should be documented. Hazard in a workplace is anything that can be detrimental to the safety and health of the worker.

According to Mr. Mahon, before workers are engaged in any task, these tasks should be assessed to determine the level of risk and the appropriate measures to be put in place to prevent the worker from being injured. The system should also allow workers to report hazards to management without any fear of reprisal.

The third element speaks to hazard prevention and control.  After the workplace analysis is completed, a risk assessment is done to determine the extent of hazards in relation to the probability of causing serious or fatal injuries in the workplace. Measures must then be put in place to prevent or control hazards.  Measures include engineering controls, meaning where the hazards cannot be removed, workers are isolated from the hazard. There is administrative controls, which is the way work is adjusted to reduce exposure to hazards; and there is personal protective equipment.

Accident record and data analysis is also an important element of the system.

“Accidents will indeed occur or near misses; however, organisations must ensure that these are documented using a record and data analysis strategy. This strategy will allow for accidents that are reported, to be investigated in a timely manner.  It also facilitates a trend analysis to determine what are the common causes and patterns, so that hazard prevention and control measures can be strengthened,” Mr. Mahon explains.

Another important feature of the OSH Management System roadmap is Safety and Health Training.

According to Mr. Mahon, workers, including contractors who visit a site, must be oriented in the general safety and health requirements of the workplace before they are engaged.  He adds that it should not be on the job that persons are learning what safety practices must be adopted.  Rather, they should be trained before they are engaged.

Finally, an Emergency Response mechanism must be part of the system. First Aid or emergency care should be readily available to minimise harm if injury or illness occurs.

“This mean that certified first-aid personnel, with the level of training appropriate to the hazards in the workplace, should always be available to render assistance. The necessary equipment should be ready and accessible to respond in case of an accident, and this is based on the nature, size and type of operation.  Evacuation drills must also be conducted no less than annually,” Mr. Mahon says.

He points out that Occupational Safety and Health is a collective responsibility.

The current Safety and Health legislation that the Ministry regulates is the Factory’s Act and its attendant regulations.

For further information on OSH Management Systems, organisations may contact the Ministry by email at oshd@mlss.gov.jm or call 876-922-9500.

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