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JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Over 500 members of staff at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security have been sensitised on the Occupational, Safety and Health (OSH) Bill, which seeks to safeguard the welfare of employees and ensure safe work environments.
  • Currently, the only legislation that deals with workers’ safety on the job is the Factories Act, which Miss Folkes said is insufficient as it only applies to workers employed at factories.
  • The Bill, which is to be presented to the legislative committee of Cabinet, also requires that each workplace should have at least one safety and health representative and for larger establishments, a safety and health committee.

Over 500 members of staff at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security have been sensitised on the Occupational, Safety and Health (OSH) Bill, which seeks to safeguard the welfare of employees and ensure safe work environments.

Senior Legal Officer, Khadrea Folkes, in an interview with JIS News, said sessions were held to develop the skills, knowledge and expertise of the staff of the Ministry, which will be the main administrator of the legislation.

Miss Folkes said that the staff members were educated about their roles and responsibilities as not only enforcers, but also as employees of the Government.

“It was about getting us to think about occupational, safety and health and what it will mean for us as workers and officers of the Ministry. We have started in house because the Ministry will own this legislation, in terms of being able to apply it generally and ensure that its provisions are observed,” she said.

Currently, the only legislation that deals with workers’ safety on the job is the Factories Act, which Miss Folkes said is insufficient as it only applies to workers employed at factories.

“Most of us do not work in factories and there are hazards in our workplace, so the Ministry is trying to enact this legislation to address that deficiency,” she pointed out.

A major area of focus of the recently held sensitisation sessions was treating with the occupational, safety and health of domestic workers, who operate in a private sphere.

Miss Folkes said that while the place of work is considered private, there are still “rules in terms of how you can ensure compliance and monitor that sphere.”  She noted that the draft legislation will ensure that “protection…can be extended to workers in the domestic household.”

The Senior Legal Officer told JIS News that the legislation, when enacted, will not seek to punish persons but rather to promote voluntary compliance by workers and employers.

“The scales are balanced … by ensuring that the employer has a responsibility to the worker and the worker has a responsibility to himself. If there is a breach, then what a tribunal would have to look at is how the employer behaved and the worker behaved in the situation,” she highlighted.

The Bill, which is to be presented to the legislative committee of Cabinet, also requires that each workplace should have at least one safety and health representative and for larger establishments, a safety and health committee.

Miss Folkes informed that sensitisation fora will take place at other Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

Sessions will also be undertaken through the Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) as well as the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU).