JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security took to the streets of downtown Kingston on February 12 to inform citizens of the requirements of the OSH legislation.
  • The Act will set the groundwork for the protection of all workers in all spheres of economic activities, and will comprehensively address all occupational hazards.
  • It covers a broader range of considerations than the existing Factories Act, to protect workers on the job and define working conditions.

With the imminent passage of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) legislation, representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security took to the streets of downtown Kingston on February 12 to inform citizens of its requirements.

The Act, which is expected to be passed in Parliament before the end of the 2013/14 legislative year in March, will set the groundwork for the protection of all workers in all spheres of economic activities, and will comprehensively address all occupational hazards.

It covers a broader range of considerations than the existing Factories Act, to protect workers on the job and define working conditions. It also establishes a joint Health and Safety Council that monitors the safety and well-being of workers.

Senior Director, Occupational Safety and Health Department at the Ministry, Robert Chung, who was among those who toured sections of Princess Street, told JIS News that the mission was “to communicate with persons who would not normally have information about the Act.”

He said the tour also formed part of the Ministry’s public education thrust to ensure that Jamaicans are adequately aware of its various plans, programmes and policies.

“What we are trying to do, through pictures, and very limited amount of words, is spell out to them the salient points of the Act and how it will impact on them when it comes into being,” Mr. Chung explained.

Mr. Chung noted that when the Bill is passed, all workplaces, whether large or small, will be required to have a policy in place, so all Jamaicans must be made aware of the new requirements.

“Workers at small enterprises like the ones here on Princess Street and Barry Street are usually not aware of the legislation and what it entails, so this is an attempt to communicate with them, to get them to dialogue with us about the new Act, and of course, to expose them to what is going to be in it,” he informed.

The provisions of the new policy are expected to address issues, such as ventilation; fire escapes, exits and extinguishers; elevators, chemicals, as well as the use of lifting and welding equipment.

The OSH Bill also makes it a responsibility for workplaces to help reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination, including prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with the disease.

This is an extremely important aspect of the legislation, informed HIV Programme Manager in the Occupational and Safety Department at the Ministry, Peta-Gay Pryce, who said much of the discrimination in workplaces stem from a lack of knowledge about how the disease is transmitted.

“It’s a work in progress, but we have been on the ground trying to work with employers and their employees to dispel the myths about transmission and reinforce the facts. We have 31.5 years of research and facts to show that HIV is not transmitted through social contact and we have to continue reinforcing that message,” she noted.

“We also help them to understand that they do not have the right to know someone’s HIV status,” Ms. Pryce added.

The Ministry’s HIV and AIDS policy is expected to: assist in developing a caring, supportive, and responsible working environment that will protect all workers; reduce HIV and AIDS related stigma and discrimination; and assist in reducing HIV and AIDS transmission.

Meanwhile, Director of the Child Labour Unit in the Ministry, Marva Ximinnies, informed that the regulations for child labour will also be included in the impending legislation.

“We are working with our colleagues in the Occupational Health and Safety Department to spread the message that no child is supposed to be at a workplace when they are supposed to be in school,” she added.

Store Manager, Shantay Morrison, who spoke with JIS News following the tour, said she was very pleased with the requirements under the new legislation, particularly as it relates to the HIV policy.

“I am comfortable with the provisions under the Act. It is a good Act, especially because I don’t think anybody should know your business if you have HIV,” she argued.

Ms. Morrison further informed that all has been put in place to ensure that her staff members work in a safe and healthy environment.

Development of Jamaica’s OSH 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.