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Story Highlights

  • The aim is to ensure adherence to and compliance with stipulated protocols regarding the creation of conducive workplace environments.
  • Development of Jamaica’s programme is consistent with the recommendations of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 91st sitting in 2003.
  • Central to Jamaica’s programme is the development of an Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

The Government, through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, is advancing work to develop Jamaica’s national occupational safety and health (OSH) programme and policy.

The programme is key to strategies being pursued by the Ministry, through its Occupational Safety and Health Department (OSHD), to strengthen and streamline existing and pending legislative and institutional provisions designed to enhance the workplace environment.

The aim is to ensure adherence to and compliance with stipulated protocols regarding the creation of conducive workplace environments that will safeguard employees’ welfare, while enhancing productivity.

Development of Jamaica’s programme is consistent with the recommendations of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 91st sitting in 2003, during which members adopted the ‘New Global Strategies in Occupational Safety and Health’ Protocol. This document outlines the instruments, which countries need, to institute effective OSH systems, one of these being development of a national programme.

Central to Jamaica’s programme is the development of an Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, has given an undertaking to make the necessary representation for the Bill’s passage in Parliament by the end of the 2013/14 legislative year next March.

The Bill is deemed pivotal to streamlining existing laws and regulations governing OSH in the workplace, which currently do not cover all areas of employment.

As a precursor to the programme’s development and passage of the Act, the Ministry has drafted an OSH Profile for Jamaica. The document was unveiled during a recent ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.

It is intended to provide the necessary data that will set national priorities for action aimed at progressive and continual improvement of workplace safety and health. It consists of several key elements, including the legal framework and data relating to occupational accidents and diseases. Jamaica is one of more than 15 countries that have already developed national profiles, with another 20 currently in the process of doing so.           

Jamaica’s OSH Profile indicates that the country has several laws and regulations relating to workplace OSH, which are administered by several regulatory bodies.

These include the OSHD; Mines and Geology Division; National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA); the Ministry of Health’s Environmental Health Unit; Pesticides Control Authority (PCA); and public health departments.

The Profile notes, however, that the existing framework of laws and regulations is not all encompassing, and does not cover all stakeholders and sectors.

Several of these have, over the years, been advanced by the Ministry. These include: the Factories Act, 1948; Factories Regulations, 1961; Building Operations and Works of Engineering Construction (Safety, Health and Welfare) Regulations, 1968; and Dock (Safety, Health and Welfare) Regulations, 1968.

Citing the example of the Factories Act and Regulations, the Profile notes that the provisions of this legislation are “limited to premises defined as factories.” The document notes that the OSHA will cover all economic sectors, inclusive of self-employed persons.

“The scope of the OSHA includes all places where persons work; therefore there will be no occupations/workplaces, which will be excluded from OSH inspections,” it states further.

Fundamental to an adequate inspection regime, the profile notes, is the need for an upgraded and expanded inspectorate to better deliver OSH services.

The document points out that the OSHD has an establishment of 16 inspectors, however, only 11 of these positions are currently filled.  Assistant Director of the OSHD, Andrew Dale, says the opportunities to address this anomaly are expected to arise consequent on passage of the OSHA.

The Ministry’s efforts in advancing development of Jamaica’s occupational safety and health programme and policy have also incorporated the introduction of Voluntary Compliance Programmes (VCPs) for stakeholder companies and entities. The VCPs are designed to prepare these stakeholders for the introduction of the impending OSHA provisions.

Speaking at the profile’s unveiling, Minister Kellier informed that two VCPs, one related to OSH, and the other dealing with HIV/AIDS, were launched in 2007.

He advised that up to November 2013, some 276 companies had enrolled – 128 for OSH, and 146 for HIV/AIDS. He said that based on the programmes’ results, all of the beneficiary entities are expected to be ready for the provisions of the OSHA, when enacted.

On the matter of AIDS, Mr. Kellier indicated that the administration efforts to advance the quality of workplace standards have been complemented by its commitment to the 2011 United Nations High Level Meeting Political Declaration on HIV and its new targets, earmarked for achievement by 2015.

“At the 2011 meeting, member governments re-committed to mitigate the impact of the epidemic on workers, their families, their dependents, workplaces and economies, taking into account all relevant Conventions of the ILO, including the recommendation on HIV and AIDS and the World of Work 2010 (No. 2000). The meeting charged employers, trade and labour unions, employees and volunteers to eliminate stigma and discrimination, protect human rights, and facilitate access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support,” he informed.

In this regard, the Ministry piloted development of the National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS, which was approved as a White Paper by both Houses of Parliament earlier this year. The document was simultaneously launched with the OSH Profile.

Mr. Kellier advised that the White Paper is intended to inform regulations on HIV, which will be appended to the OSHA, when enacted.

He disclosed that the Ministry provided technical assistance to private sector companies to design programmes on OSH and HIV. This, he explained, entailed, among other things, a pilot project implemented with 15 companies from the food industry, focused on HIV and food preparation.

“The focus was on investigating facts to prove that HIV cannot be transmitted through food and, therefore, exclusion of a positive person from the workspace is not necessary. I am happy to report that nine of the 15 participatory companies have drafted proclamations to voice their non-discriminatory stance towards workers or their valued customers. The expectation is to have these proclamations displayed in each food establishment. This will, actually, become beneficial to companies when (the) OSHA is enacted,” he outlined.

Mr. Kellier stressed that achievement of full inclusion and non-discrimination requires affirmation by all stakeholders that “one case of discrimination is too many”, while warning that “HIV-discrimination will be an offence under the pending OSHA.”

“I feel very confident…that we will see further improvements in our efforts to ensure that Jamaicans enjoy the benefits of decent work in a healthy and safe environment, free of HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” Mr. Kellier stated.